The Garland Independent School District (ISD) is rethinking who can rent the Curtis Culwell Center, following the attack on free speech that occurred outside the venue during the Mohammad Art Contest and Exhibit on Sunday evening, May 3.
Two gunmen, identified as Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, opened fire on law enforcement outside the Center. The altercation ended with both suspects dead and a school district security officer wounded, as Breitbart Texas reported.
“We will definitely look into changing how we rent out that arena,” district spokesman Chris Moore told NBC DFW. “We’re going to have to, in light of what happened.”
The report said nearly 25 percent of students — about 550 students — at nearby Namaan Forest High School were absent on Monday, May 4. The unusually high absentee rate was presumably a result of the terrorist attack.
The Curtis Culwell Center was closed on Monday “due to the incident,” according to its website.
The district uses the venue for its Advanced Placement (AP) testing and high school graduation ceremonies. District officials are now debating whether non-scholastic events should ever be held at the publicly-owned facility.
Among the non-education related events booked at the Curtis Culwell Center in the coming months are FunAsia Presents Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Pakistani qawwali singing sensation, on his Back2Love tour; the Abdu and Ikram wedding reception, and Buki’s 50th birthday party.
The district plans to discuss leasing policies at their May 12 board meeting, in an effort to implement a “broader policy” that would consider a “likely threat of harm” or a “known security risk” when making rental decisions, applicable across-the-board to facility rentals. However, the Curtis Culwell Center could find themselves saddled with discrimination lawsuits if they singled out “one group’s art show” for refusal, according to the NBC report.
“I know we’re required by those [non-discrimination] limitations by law, but being equitable still can’t trump safety,” Moore said. “You shouldn’t have things like this happen anywhere, but certainly not at a public school district facility.”
Who will determine which organizations or entities get to lease the Curtis Culwell Center — law enforcement, government, school district officials and/or the property taxpayers? Breitbart Texas reached out to Chris Moore, spokesman for the Curtis Culwell Center, to ask that very question, but did not receive a response by press time.
In January, Breitbart Texas reported that old promotional material quoted the center’s former sales and marketing team member, Keith Reimer, explaining that “everyone who lives in the school district, which includes Garland, Rowlett, and Sachse, is a stakeholder in the center.” The $30-plus million multi-purpose facility may be owned by Garland ISD, but it was funded by property tax payers, primarily through revenue bonds.
Many of those stakeholders were frustrated that they were not consulted in the school district-owned facility’s decision to lease the Culwell Center to Sound Vision, Inc., producer of Stand with the Prophet in Honor and Respect benefit galas in 2015 and 2014.
Controversy erupted when taxpayers learned the Culwell Center was rented out for an Islamic fundraiser in January – a vitriolic event in which a major speaker was New York City Imam Siraj Wahhaj, alleged co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and a character witness for the Blind Sheik, Omar Abdel Rahman, as Breitbart News reported.
At the time, terrorism expert Steven Emerson commented that Wahhaj and the founder of the group sponsoring the conference, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, had called for imposing sharia (Islamic law) in the U.S. An attorney for Sound Vision said statements Mujahid made about sharia law were taken out of context.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.