Outrage over Islam lesson forces school to shut down for days

A school teacher in Virginia taught her students a lesson about Islam, so she gave them a bit of Arabic text for them to copy as part of their normal school day. Little did she know the entire school would end up being shut down over the lesson.

Cheryl LaPorte, a teacher at Riverheads High School, thought that showing her students how intricate the Arabic script is would be a good way to round out her lessons, but once their parents got wind of the calligraphy exercise, the pitchforks were out, and the school district was deluged with hateful email messages and telephone calls.

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The problem? The script chosen was a religious Islamic passage that translates as, “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” Parents accused LaPorte — and the entire school district — of false indoctrination, and many have gone so far as to ask that she be terminated from her job.

In fact, the volume of hateful messages was so large that the district decided to lock down the high school for two days before deciding to close all the schools and the district offices early for the winter holiday. While the superintendent says that languages and religion are parts of the standard curriculum when learning about world geography, they will choose a nonreligious text to transcribe next time.

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The frightening aspect to all this, aside from the fact that people were incensed to the point where they spewed hatred at the school, is that their vitriol was so powerful that the schools had to cave and close their doors districtwide. How far, then, should school administrators bend over backward to cater to the complaints from parents?

Those who educate our children are in a tenuous place. They must adhere to state standards while helping our kids become functioning adults that contribute to society and posses a world view that extends beyond their own hometown. This means, of course, that some subjects may be uncomfortable for some parents to deal with, even hearing them secondhand from their kids. The most common controversy you hear about is sex education, whether it’s teaching kids about safe sex or educating them about being transgender or gay, but as you can see here, religion often comes in at a close second.

As parents, we’re not always going to agree 100 percent with what our kids learn in school, and yes, religious texts (Islamic, Christian, Jewish and otherwise) should probably not make the cut when teaching about different languages, cultures and people.

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However, causing a school to have to go into a lockdown mode or start the winter holidays a little early should never be a goal of an angry parent. There are better ways to go about airing our complaints that don’t involve a school feeling threatened in any way, shape or form, and school districts should probably stand a little stronger in the face of adversity — if parents learn that they can get what they want by being hateful or vulgar, then this is the way they will act in the future. And this rings a bell from our own parenting struggles — you don’t reward your child for her outbursts. Instead, you teach her a better way to deal with her conflicts.

This is not how we want our kids to act. Let’s do a better job of teaching them life lessons, shall we?


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