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Judge OKs Rally At Denver School

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A group of African-American activists held a rally last week at a Denver high school after a federal judge ruled that the district's attempt to block the event was unconstitutional.

More than 150 people turned out after school hours to hear Nation of Islam minister Jamal Muhammad and other speakers deliver a fiery call for black unity while denouncing school officials and other critics.

Mr. Muhammad leads a group that has been working for months to arrange a local version of the Million Man March organized in Washington last fall by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. The local march is scheduled to take place this week.

Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, Mr. Muhammad's group sued the Denver school district after officials rejected its request to rent space for the rally at George Washington High School after school hours. (See Education Week, April 17, 1996.)

Mr. Muhammad, who spoke at two other city high schools earlier this year, has been harshly criticized by district officials and others for peppering his remarks with what they call offensive and racially divisive rhetoric. District officials also accused the group of leading students on a walkout at Washington High last month, and said they denied the rental permit on those grounds.

But U.S. District Judge Wiley Daniel ruled on April 17 that the district's action violated the group's constitutional right to free speech.

The dispute has prompted Superintendent Irv Moskowitz to begin a review of the 64,000-student district's policy for allowing outside groups to use school facilities, a step that the judge recommended.

"The goal is to see if we can come up with language that would allow us to pick and choose a little more carefully without trampling on anybody's rights," said Mark Stevens, a district spokesman.

-Caroline Hendrie

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