Virginia School District Closes After Backlash Over Arabic Assignment

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The Augusta County school district in Virginia will be closed on Friday after parents inundated the school district with complaints about an Arabic calligraphy assignment at Riverheads High School that use the Muslim statement of faith.

The Dec. 11 assignment prompted “voluminous phone calls and electronic mail locally and from outside the area,” according to NBC Washington. Augusta County Sheriff Randy Fisher told CBS News that the “profane” and “hateful” prompted Riverheads High School to lock and monitor all of its doors on Wednesday and Thursday.

As the complaints increased throughout the week, law enforcement advised the school district to close all schools, according to CBS News.

Parents were upset over a geography assignment on world religions from teacher Cheryl LaPorte, who had students practice calligraphy by writing the Muslim statement of faith, which translates to “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah,” according to Staunton, Virginia, paper the News Leader. Students were also shown a copy of the Quran, according to the News Leader.

A few students refused to complete the assignment, prompting outrage from their parents, the News Leader reported.

Augusta County Superintendent Eric Bond said a statement to the News Leader that the Arabic message was not translated and that LaPorte did not ask students to “translate it, recite it or otherwise adopt or pronounce it as a personal belief.”

“The students were presented with the statement to demonstrate the complex artistry of the written language used in the Middle East, and were asked to attempt to copy it in order to give the students an idea of the artistic complexity of the calligraphy,” Bond said.

Students are expected to complete a similar assignment when learning about China, according to the News Leader.

“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,” Bond added in the statement. “Each of the lessons attempts objectively to present world religions in a way that is interesting and interactive for students.”

The Virginia Department of Education told the News Leader that LaPorte’s assignment is in line with the “Standards of Learning and the requirements for content instruction on world monotheistic religions.”

However, parents gathered at a Tuesday forum at the Good News Ministries church in Greenville, Virginia, to express outrage over the assignment, according to the News Leader.

Kimberly Herndon, the parent who organized the event, said that the assignment amounted to “indoctrination.”

“If my truth can not be spoken in schools, I don’t want false doctrine spoken in schools. That’s what keeps it even across the board,” she said, according to the News Leader.

“She gave up the Lord’s time,” Herndon continued, referring to LaPorte’s lessons. “She gave it up and gave it to Mohammed.”

Numerous individuals at the forum called for LaPorte to be fired, according to the News Leader.

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