A Virginia school district closed all schools after a tsunami of complaints followed an assignment on Islam.
A calligraphy lesson at Riverheads High School in Greenville required students to practice writing, “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” Angry parents attended a Dec. 11 school-district meeting and demanded to know why the Muslim statement of faith, also known as the shahada, was part of one teacher’s curriculum.
The district closed all schools on Friday as backlash continued to build.
“While there has been no specific threat of harm to students, schools and school offices will be closed Friday, December 18, 2015,” Augusta County Schools said in a statement, CNN reported.
Additional law enforcement personnel have been deployed to monitor electronic communications.
Student Laurel Truxell questioned the district’s defense of the lesson as an exercise in Arabic’s “artistic complexity” during an interview with WHSV-3 ABC.
“If it was, why couldn’t we just learn to write ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’? You know, normal words. Not that,” Truxell said Tuesday.
Kimberly Herndon told the network she would not send her ninth-grade son back into the teacher’s world geography class. She and other parents gathered Tuesday at Good News Ministries in Staunton to discuss the assignment.
“I’m shocked that it was sent home, shocked that it was in the school, shocked that it was happening right here in our small town,” said Herndon. “The sheet that she gave out was pure doctrine in its origin. I will not have my children set under a woman who indoctrinates them with the Islamic religion when I am a Christian. I’m going to stand behind Christ.”
Augusta County Schools defended teacher Cheri Laporte earlier in the week, saying she was merely providing and “objective” and “interactive” activity for students.
“Neither these lessons, nor any other lesson 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 Superintendent Dr. Eric Bond said in a statement released Tuesday, WND reported.
Student’s in Laporte’s class were also encouraged to wear a scarf to experience an “interactive” lesson on modest Islamic dress.
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School officials said they will use a “different, non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy” for future assignments.