New York - A school in Augusta County, Virginia will cancel classes and close all schools on Friday after a teacher gave her students an Arabic calligraphy assignment during a segment on world religions.
New York – A school in Augusta County, Virginia will cancel classes and close all schools on Friday after a teacher gave her students an Arabic calligraphy assignment during a segment on world religions.
The assignment that stirred controversy required students to practice Arabic calligraphy by rewriting the “Shahada,” Islamic statement of faith.
Teacher Cheryl LaPorte was teaching a class on World Geography at Riverheads High School in Staunton, Virginia last week, about the world’s most predominant religions, according to the Staunton News Leader.
They students had reportedly learned about Christianity and Judaism and it was their turn to learn about Islam. LaPorte used the ‘Shahada’, the most known phrase in the Islamic faith to have her students practice writing in the Arabic language.
Being the Muslim profession of faith and the first pillar of Islam, the ‘Shahada’ means that “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is His Messenger.”
While the students were not asked to recite it, but to copy it as a calligraphy exercise, Christian parents requested LaPorte fired for “violating children’s religious beliefs,” the same source said.
The petition was denied by the Virginia Department of Education. Superintendent Eric Bond said LaPorte’s actions are “in line with state standards” and did not violate students’ rights.
Dissatisfied with having their petition denied, parents gathered last Tuesday at the Good News Ministries church in Greenville, according to CBS News.
They believe using the ‘Shahada’ is indoctrination. Kimberly Herndon, the parent who organized the gathering, said Islam is a “false doctrine” and she does not want it spoken to students.
“[LaPorte] gave up the Lord’s time,” Herndon said, while adding, “She gave it up and gave it to Mohammed.”
“That’s why we need to join together,” she said to the Staunton daily, implying a halt in the mention of Islam in schools.
“If my truth cannot be spoken in schools, I don’t want false doctrine spoken in schools. That’s what keeps it even across the board,” Herndon stressed.
As a result, Riverheads High School has agreed to use non-religious Arabic phrases in calligraphy practice, NBC29 noted.
Even though LaPorte’s actions were not considered a violation by the authorities, the local sheriff recommended that the school system close operations on Friday as a way to calm down the wave of calls and emails received due to the controversy the case has stirred, the local daily said.