A Tennessee school district is amending its zero tolerance policy after a Muslim student gave classmates toy guns to mark the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha. The Rutherford County School Board is expected to address the issue tonight, spokesman James Evans told Fox News.
The controversy started at the end of October when the parents of a Muslim student sent gift bags that were given to the child’s classmates at Barfield Elementary School in Murfreesboro.
“There was nothing religious in the bags,” Evans told Fox News. “The bags were gender-specific. The girls received necklaces and Barbie dolls.”
“The teacher was not aware of that when she passed them out,” Evans said.
The parents of a child who received one of the toy guns became alarmed and notified the school.
“The parents claim they are not upset because it was a Muslim student,” he said. “It was because it was a toy gun.”
The Muslim child was not punished because Tennessee’s zero-tolerance statute does not address toy weapons. School officials are in the process of amending their local policy to give principals more discretion.
But some parents and community residents are also concerned about why students were allowed to celebrate Eid al-Adha in the classroom.
“It was a celebration in a public school of an Islamic holiday,” local blogger Cathy Hinners told Fox News. “What it comes down to is the proselytizing of Islam.”
And some in the community are alleging there’s a double standard. Last December another student in the district was punished for a gun-shaped pizza incident.
The boy had chewed his pizza into the shape of a gun and then pretended to shoot other students at the table with his pizza-shaped weapon. When he was confronted by a teacher about the issue he allegedly lied.
“Some people are trying to draw a comparison saying we punished one for a pizza-shaped gun and not for an actual toy gun,” he said.
Evans said the student was punished for lying – not for chewing his pizza into the shape of a gun.
Rutherford County has been the center of a long-simmering debate over the construction of a mosque. Evans believes that might have something to do with the classroom incident.
“There’s a lot of passion down in this community right now – especially because of the Muslim debate that’s been going on for a few years,” Evans said. “We think this is probably fueling some of this. We’re not saying anyone is right or wrong – we’re just trying to educate students.”
But Hinners believes Muslims are being given special access to the county’s public schools.
“It’s not anti-Muslim,” she said. ‘It’s not anti-Islam. This is not the premise here. It is the Sharia-law problem – how the accommodations are being sought just for the Islamic community.”
Evans said school policy allows for the celebration of all religious holidays – including Good Friday. Muslims, he said, are not getting preferential treatment.
Hinners also wondered about the toy guns. She said 10 students received guns. The school system said only two people received the toy weapons.
“What was the message of sending in a toy gun,” she wondered.
Read more about this story at The Tennessean.