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WND EXCLUSIVE

Parent: School demanded 'waivers' after WND report

Students made to wear burqas in Texas classroom

Parents in a Texas school district are reporting officials told their children to sign “waivers” for their participation in a class where they wore Islamic burqas following a WND report on the activity.

Last week, WND reported that a school in Lumberton, Texas, had underage students wear burqas as part of a lesson on Islam in a ninth-grade high school geography class. A photo of the students in burqas was included in the report.

Now parents report the students were required to come to the principal’s office and sign “incident reports” without the option to refuse. They stated wearing the burqas was voluntary and not mandatory.

April LeBlanc, mother of student Madelyn McLemore, feels that the principal at Lumberton ISD violated parental consent requirements. LeBlanc recounted her confrontation with the LISD principal to WND:

“I asked the principal why she thought it was okay to take a written statement from my daughter without me present? She stated to us that it is a normal procedure they do at Lumberton High School when incidents occur. They have children sign statements all the time without parents present; that it is their procedure. I told her that it was not ok and that this was not a typical ‘incident’ like a classroom skirmish or a disobedient student.”

According to LeBlanc, “The principal eventually told me that it could have been handled better, and that she probably should have called the parents.”

Madelyn told WND that she felt coerced and pressured into writing the incident report. LeBlanc noted that her daughter had called crying from the restroom, telling her mother that she had been dismissed for the day as in a disciplinary action.

LeBlanc also noted that she had been denied access to the principal at first, and had the sense that she was being put off.

“When I arrived at the school and asked the front desk clerk for the principal, she stated she [the principal] was not there. I then told her that a statement was just taken from my daughter and she needed to get someone to the front to speak with me.”

LeBlanc continued, “The principal’s secretary then told me that the principal was gone but she could take my name and number. I refused. I told the secretary to get the principal on the phone.

“The front desk clerk then picked up her phone and called to the principal’s secretary and said in a low tone ‘Those parents are here,’” said LeBlanc.

Superintendent John Valastro has made public statements on the issue.

“Did we do everything right? Probably not, but we attempt to teach our students critical thinking skills so they can judge for themselves,” he said. “I can honestly say, to my knowledge, Lumberton ISD has never converted a single student to Islam.”

David Bellows, a Lumberton resident, however, challenged whether the lesson involved “critical thinking.”

He told WND Valastro disallowed a Bible history course previously, an apparent violation of a Texas statute, in 2008.

Earlier reports connected CSCOPE – the controversial curriculum used by Lumberton ISD and 875 other public schools in Texas – to the incident in Lumberton High School. CSCOPE has come under fire for its content, including accusations of multiple lessons demonstrating a pro-Islamic agenda. CSCOPE representatives had claimed that such content had been “taken out of context” or that they were “old lessons that have since been taken down.”

Proponents of CSCOPE have defended the curriculum management system, previously releasing a 72-page study claiming that a Christian – not Islamic – bias exists in lesson content.

But critics counter that the report was written by Region 10, a division of the TESCCC, which designs and sells CSCOPE to schools. Critics also contend that Lumberton may be in violation of a binding SBOE resolution forbidding pro-Islamic subject-matter in Texas public school classrooms.

In a statement last week, the district explained, “Lumberton ISD has purchased the CSCOPE curriculum however; the teachers are not required to teach the lessons that are provided. The school district follows the Year at a Glance, a scope and sequence of the adopted Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, as well as the Instructional Focus Document which explains the Rationale, Common Misconceptions for students, TEKS, and the Key Academic Vocabulary that supports conceptual development.”

CSCOPE critic and education expert Jeanine McGregor, appointed by the State Board of Education to research CSCOPE before the Senate hearings some months ago, told WND that the LISD release was not telling the whole story.

McGregor contends, “The Lumberton ISD [burqa] story reaffirms what I was told by Gifted and AP teachers from across the state. They were not required to teach CSCOPE but they were required to follow the VAD (Vertical Alignment Document from CSCOPE) which dictates when a subject will be taught. So, in essence, they do have to follow CSCOPE. The Lumberton teacher stated in the news article that ‘I have to teach you this’ – that means someone was forcing her to use those terms. Who? That is a question I would ask next if I were a parent.”

CSCOPE also said in a new statement it would not be granting parents direct access to lesson content – something CSCOPE representatives had promised during state Senate hearings to do.

The curriculum organization explained: “We believe that this would actually undercut teachers’ ability to customize a lesson to best serve the students in their classrooms. The teacher should always be a parent’s primary contact in discovering what resources are being used in the learning environment. Ultimately, the teacher and district decide if a CSCOPE lesson will be used in full, in part, or not at all…The TESCCC does not wish to do anything that could generate confusion among parents and teachers. The TESCCC strongly believes and supports local decision making within school districts and insists that the member districts have the ability to release any CSCOPE content themselves….”

The position conflicts with the recent requirement imposed by the Senate Education Committee that CSCOPE must make all lesson content directly accessible to parents, officials said.

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