A Texas lawmaker is launching an investigation after a teacher reportedly invited female students to dress up in Islamic garb and then told her classroom they should call Muslim terrorists – freedom fighters.
State Sen. Dan Patrick, chairman of the senate education committee, told Fox News he is very disturbed by the photograph as well as reports that students were exposed to a story that blamed Egypt’s turmoil on democracy – rather than the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Parents are very sensitive to any issue that seems to be anti-American – that blames democracy for some sort of trouble in the world,” he said.
The lesson on Islam was taught in a world geography class at Lumberton High School. The teacher brought burqas and other Islamic clothing for the female students to wear. They were also assigned to write an essay based on a Washington Post story that blamed Egypt’s troubles on democracy – instead of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“I am outraged,” one of the parents, who asked not to be identified, told Fox News. “I felt my blood pressure go through my head.”
The parent said she was not aware of the lesson until she discovered a photograph of her 14-year-old daughter wearing a burqa on Facebook.
“As parents we should have been made aware this and I felt like the line had been crossed,” she told Fox News. “Christian kids who want to pray have to do it outside of school hours – yet Islam is being taught to our kids during school hours.”
Sen. Patrick said he understands why the parents are upset.
“Could you imagine if someone asked a Muslim student to dress up as a priest,” the senator asked. “The parents of a Muslim student might be rather upset about that.”
The young girl’s father wondered why the teacher was giving children lessons about Islam in a geography class.
“She went from learning about Mexico to learning about Russia to learning about Islam,” he said. “Islam is not a country. Islam is not a continent.”
The parents said they confronted their daughter and told her to explain exactly what she had been taught.
“They were asked about their perception of Islam,” she said. “Most of the class said they thought about terrorism. And her response was, ‘we’re going to change the way we perceive Islam.’”
The teacher reportedly told the students that she did not necessarily agree with the lessons –but she was required to teach the material.
The Lumberton Independent School District released a statement to Fox News defending the class.
“The lesson that was offered focused on exposing students to world cultures, religions, customs and belief systems,” the statement read. “The lesson is not teaching a specific religion, and the students volunteered to wear the clothing.”
The school district said Judaism and Christianity were also part of the lesson. However, the parents said Christianity was not discussed in the classroom.
“The Christian perspective was not taught,” she said. “They went in-depth into Islam and I’m not comfortable with it.”
The district said the photograph does not reflect the entire aspect of the lesson.
“The lesson encompassed diversity education so students receive a firm understanding of our world and why people are motivated differently,” the statement read.
The parents said they immediately contacted the principal of the high school who defended the program and said it was required under CSCOPE – a controversial electronic curriculum system that provides online lesson plans for teachers.
“The principal told me it was world geography and they have to learn this stuff,” she said.
However, the school district said the lesson taught at the high school was not part of written CSCOPE lesson.
“This is the normal answer from every school using CSCOPE,” said Janice VanCleave, a vocal critic of the program and the founder of Texas CSCOPE Review. “They are definitely promoting the Islamic religion.”
VanCleave said the trouble is that teachers are not giving students the full story.
“They are not telling students how these young women are treated in this religion,” she told Fox News. “In the Islamic countries women are not treated well at all.”
Last month, evidence was presented at a state hearing showing that CSCOPE offered a number of lessons about Islam.
One particular lesson instructed teachers to provide classroom readings of selected texts from the Koran.
Students were also taught that Allah is God.
CSCOPE offered no comparable lessons on Christianity or Judaism, VanCleave told Fox News.
“I do think CSCOPE promotes the Islamic religion,” she said. “I don’t think it’s right to be proselytizing the Islamic religion in our schools.”
Patrick said every time they’ve asked CSCOPE leaders about the lessons on Islam, lawmakers were told “those were old lessons.”
“In this particular case – there’s a photograph and there’s a letter from the school district and there’s another companion lesson,” he said. “You start adding these issues up and it puts CSCOPE under the microscope more.”