Justice

The Absurd Reason Schools in Virginia Were Shut Down Today

All schools in Augusta County School District in Virginia closed their doors Friday after one teacher gave her students an assignment about Islam and world religions that led to allegations of Islamic indoctrination and angry responses from parents, the Washington Post reports.

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Cheryl LaPorte is a world geography teacher at Riverheads High School in Staunton and studies different countries and their religions as part of her curriculum. When the class came to the section about Islam, LaPorte asked her students to copy an example of Arabic calligraphy as a way to give students "an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy," according to CNN.

After the lesson, parents were apparently upset that she asked her students to practice calligraphy with the Islamic statement of faith known as the shahada, which translates to "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah," Gawker reports.

Although the recitation of the shahada constitutes conversion to Islam, rewriting it does not, according to Gawker. In addition, students were not asked to recite the shahada or say they believed it, the Washington Post reports. But it didn't stop parents from being outraged.

Some Christian parents called for LaPorte to be fired over "violating children's religious beliefs," News Leader reports.

One parent denounced the assignment in a long Facebook post, calling it an attempt to convert her child to Islam.

I am preparing to confront the county on this issue of the Muslim indoctrination taking place here in an Augusta county...

Posted by Kimberly Herndon on Friday, December 11, 2015

"I am preparing to confront the county on this issue of the Muslim indoctrination taking place here in an Augusta county school. This evil has been cloaked in the form of multiculturism. My child was given the creed of the Islam faith to copy. This creed that is translated ; There is no god but Allah. Mohammed was Allah's messenger. This is recited during their pledge to the Islamic faith

“When I saw the language, the Arabic language, immediately I had a bad feeling come over me,” parent Kimberly Herndon also told NBC29.

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Other parents and people in the community also took to Facebook to create an event page with plans to rally at a local church near Riverheads High School. But the event page was taken down after many people condemned the event.

Amid the backlash the school officials tried to lessen the concern of parents, students and people in the community.

"Neither of these lessons, nor any other lessons in the world geography course, are an attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion or a request for students to renounce their own faith or profess any belief," Augusta County Schools official Eric Bond said in a statement to WHSV.

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But as a precaution the school district closed all its schools and canceled all extracurricular activities, stating they were “receiving voluminous phone calls and electronic mail locally and from outside the area," the NY Times reports.

Although LaPorte took the assignment from a standard workbook on world religions and did not originally create the assignment herself, the school district has decided to remove the shadada from the world religion instruction stating that "a different, non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy will be used in the future," according to CNN.