Editor’s note: A volunteer with Concerned Women for America sent in this well-timed letter of concern. Considering all the attention given to Islam recently, we felt it appropriate to share with you — especially those of you in Virginia.
I am a resident of Augusta County, Virginia and a retired teacher. I taught twenty-two years in Augusta County and fourteen years in Harrisonburg. Two of our children graduated from Augusta County schools.
I had read on Facebook and in the Staunton News Leader about the assignment in a Riverhead’s World Geography class in which students were required to practice calligraphy by copying the Muslim statement of faith: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” To me, this is at the least an inappropriate assignment, and considering the world we live in, it is outrageous.
My husband and I attended a meeting of interested parents and community members. At least a hundred people attended, and many spoke. My first question was did the teacher know what the writing meant that she asked the students to copy? The principal stated in the newspaper article they were just noting the artistry of the writing. The evidence we heard from parents and students indicates that the teacher did indeed know what she was requiring her students to copy. I was shocked when several students also reported that the teacher had called them racists because they questioned the assignment or expressed concern about Muslims in classroom debates. One parent said her son was called a racist last year, and she spoke with the principal about it. Other parents reiterated similar stories.
As a teacher, my first thought was that maybe the assignment had been misunderstood and the concern blown out of proportion. Then I read Fox News host and commentator Todd Starnes’ view today (Dec. 15, 2015) that the incident is clearly indoctrination. Then at the meeting, I listened to students who were in the class and to several parents who spoke. I have concluded that the teacher is way out of line and the administration is not doing enough about it. Students said that the teacher focused on Islam, mandated that they copy the statement of faith, passed around a Quran and told the students they should read it, encouraged girls to try on a Muslim scarf, and photographed the one who did — against her will — with her (the teacher’s) personal cell phone and the school’s camera. Contrary to what the newspaper reported, the students who spoke said Islam is over-emphasized in this teacher’s class. One student said the teacher did not teach about Christianity at all since she said they already knew about that.
In case you still don’t share my concern, let me remind you that public school teachers in Virginia do not have the right or authority to teach a particular religion or to demean students by calling them racists because they exercise their right to disagree. If students in Augusta County public schools are taught religion, it is in Weekday Religious Education classes, in elementary school, off school property, by non-school employees, with parent permission. Since this teacher does not meet these requirements, she has clearly over-stepped her bounds, and it is time to remove her from her position of influence. The citizens of Augusta County will not remain silent on this issue.