Va. county shuts down schools after backlash to lesson on Islam

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

After Outrage Over Curriculum Using Muslim Statement of Faith, School District Shuts Down Friday Classes, Weekend Activities.

Verona, Va. Schools in Augusta County will be closed Friday after students were given a calligraphy assignment that directed them to copy the Arabic for “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” The school district said they were closing schools after parents objected to the World Geography curriculum, which led to media coverage, which led to “phone calls and electronic mail” that raised concerns because of their “tone and content.” The district’s statement said there was “no specific threat of harm to students” but they were closing downs schools “on the recommendations of law enforcement and the Augusta County School Board out of an abundance of caution.” As to the lesson itself, the district said the assignment was not “designed to promote a religious viewpoint or change any student’s religious belief.” But because of concern, the district said future world religion assignments would use “a different, non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy.” The uproar over an Arabic assignment at a Virginia school has grown to the point where school district officials have canceled Friday classes for all schools under their authority.

Islamophobia has reached levels comparable to the period in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, and it seems that this fear of the religion has manifested itself in an absolute unwillingness of many parents to have their children learn about Islam in school. — Security concerns have prompted officials in a Virginia county to close schools after parental objections to a world geography lesson that included Islam.

As part of the assignment, social studies teacher Cheryl LaPorte had her ninth-grade students copy a piece of Arabic text known as the shahada, which is the most common Islamic creed. As a result of those communications, the Sheriff’s Office and the school division coordinated to increase police presence at Augusta County schools and to monitor those communications.

Media outlets report that a Riverheads High School teacher last week asked students to complete an assignment that included practicing calligraphy and writing a Muslim statement of faith. Herndon said she was “led by the Lord” to organize a meeting Tuesday night at a local church to call for the termination of the teacher and asked for “security on the grounds to make sure no one gets out of hand.” “Mrs. Laporte has taught this same lesson year after year and I hope she has the chance to do it again for many more years,” posted Sarah Tyree, a former student. Tara Cali, a mother in Bakersfield, California, sent an angry message back to her son’s teachers after she saw that her son had a homework assignment about Islam. Bond appreciate parents bringing concerns directly to our attention, and a constructive and respectful dialogue between school and community is always welcome.

Not only did she refuse to allow her son to be “part of this in any sort of way,” she scribbled references to a number of Bible verses on the assignment to be sent back to the school. Riverheads ninth-grader Laurel Truxell told the station WHSV she did not feel comfortable copying the Arabic text or putting on the scarf meant to mimic the Islamic Hijab.

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