A ninth grade World Geography teacher who assigned students near Staunton, Virginia to hand copy the Arabic characters representing the shahada–the Islamic statement of faith–also circulated a Koran to her students while refusing to do the same with the Bible, according to reports from a parent meeting.
Conservative talk show host Rob Schilling filed this report last Tuesday:
Parents of students at Greenville, Virginia's Riverheads High School were shocked by a recent assignment given in World Geography class.
Classroom teacher, Cheri Laporte, asked students to practice "calligraphy" by copying the Muslim statement of faith, also known as the shahada, which translates as:
"There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah."
Recitation of the shahada is a fundamental step in conversion to Islam.
According to parents, students were not informed of the translation or of the specific meaning of the Arabic text the students were being asked to copy. In addition, parents confirm that female students were invited to don Muslim apparel and subsequently were photographed in costume by the teacher. (Reportedly, an administrator has since disposed of the photos.)
A post-assignment emergency meeting held with the teacher, a parent, and schools administration yielded the following additional information:
Teacher Laporte was aware of the translation of the text assigned and was unapologetic over the assignment itself.
Apparel representing other religions was not presented in the lesson.
Teacher Laporte previously had circulated a Koran in the classroom, but had intentionally declined to make a Bible available because "all of the students already have read or seen a Bible".
School administration confirmed that this lesson was not in the Augusta School Division's approved curriculum for World Geography
After the meeting, one parent responded in reference to the teacher:
I do not trust her to teach my son and regardless of the outcome he will not sit in her classroom. I am in the process of forgiving her but I do not trust her.
Riverheads High School Principal, Max Lowe, did not directly acknowledge an inquiry requesting confirmation of the incident, clarification of policy, and disciplinary measures, if any, taken against Ms. Laporte.
A community meeting of concerned parents is scheduled for further discussion of the assignment and its aftermath.
WVIR TV confirmed that students in Cheryl LaPorte's class wore the hijab:
Last week, ninth-grade-students at Riverheads High School were asked to copy the Shahada for a school assignment.
"She told us the paper meant faith so we didn't think anything of it," said Laurel Truxell, a ninth-grader.
But after they found out what they translated, "There is no other God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger." Some students took issue.
"A lot of people got really upset and I refused to do the paper," said Truxell.
Some students also put on a scarf part of the interactive lesson intended to teach about a religious article of clothing, the Hijab.
"When they asked me to dress up, I said no and the aide said okay, well the teacher pushed and pushed and pushed so I did it, and when she took a picture, I asked for it not to be in the yearbook and she said it was, so that's when my parents called the school," said Truxell.
"Students were also shown copies of the Koran, and female students were invited to try on a scarf as part of a lesson about the Islamic concept of modest dress," The Daily Mailconfirmed.
Augusta County school administrators who "confirmed that this lesson was not in the Augusta School Division's approved curriculum for World Geography" at the parents meeting on Dec. 15 later backtracked with after-the-fact language that suggested the lesson was consistent with Virginia's state "Standards of Learning."
"[B]oth the Virginia Department of Education and Augusta County Superintendent Eric Bond have reviewed the material and found it in line with state standards and said the lesson did not violate student rights," the Gannett owned News Leader reported on Thursday.
However, as Breitbart News reported previously, the "calligraphy lesson," the forced wearing of the hijab by students, and the distribution of the Koran and the exclusion of the Bible are all well beyond the parameters of the Virginia Department of Education "Standards of Learning."
The World Geography curriculum framework for the Virginia Department of Education standard, which appears to be the one which Augusta County Public Schools Superintendent Bond used to judge the lesson's compliance with state standards, offers little to support his conclusion:
STANDARD WG.3: The student will apply the concept of a region by ... c) analyzing how cultural characteristics, including the world's major languages, ethnicities, and religions, link or divide regions.
Cultural difference and similarities can link or divide regions.
How can cultural characteristics link or divide regions?
• Arab world: Arabic
• Hispanic America: Spanish
• Brazil: Portuguese
• Canada: French and English
• Switzerland: Multiple languages
• English: International language
• Former Yugoslavia: Serbs, Croats,
• Burundi and Rwanda: Hutus and Tutsis
• United States, Switzerland: Multiple
ethnicities united in one country
• Korea, Japan: Predominantly single
• Cyprus: Greeks and Turks
Religion as a unifying force
Religion as a divisive force
• Conflicts between Hindus and Muslims in Pakistan and India
• Conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland
• Jews, Christians, and Muslims all claiming Jerusalem as their religious heritage site
• Conflicts between Sunni and Shi'a
Identify and interpret regional patterns on maps.
Explain cause-and-effect relationships.
Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas, beliefs, and behaviors.
Draw conclusions and make inferences about data.
It is hard to see how the three Islamic-centric exercises LaPorte assigned her students comply with this standard to show "religion as a unifying force."
This was apparently the only exercise she used from a "non-standard compliant" World Religions workbook she selected for use on her own. Also, LaPorte apparently did not assign lessons from that workbook that demonstrated how the other four religions specifically identified in the curriculum framework for the standard–Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, or Buddhism–served as a "unifying force."
It is unclear if this was the first year LaPorte assigned the students these specific Islam-centric lessons.
Two Riverheads High school juniors, who were taught 9th grade World Geography by LaPorte two years ago, evidenced support for her, but made no mention of having participated in similar Islamic-centric assignments at that time:
"[LaPorte] taught us some interesting things and I learned a lot," [Kimber] Murphy said. "I think she's a great teacher."
[A] [f]riend of Murphy's, Tristian Jarvis said he feels things have been pretty normal this week. He also took world geography with LaPorte and reiterated that he feels LaPorte "is a great teacher in my opinion."
Breitbart News attempted to contact Ms. LaPorte to ask her if this was the first year she assigned these lessons and, if so, why she decided to assign them this year. Her phone did not accept messages, and she did not respond to email inquiries.
For more than a decade, it has also been pushing Islamic-centric supplementary materialsto middle school and high school teachers across the United States.
Recently, state legislators and parents in Tennessee objected strenuously to CAIR's practice of distributing materials to Tennessee public school teachers.
In October, Tennessee State Senator Joe Hensley wrote:
Parents have also voiced great concern that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is providing curriculum support to school districts on the teaching of Islam. CAIR has been associated with radical Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood," In 2007, CAIR was named by U.S. Federal prosecutors in a list of unindicted co-conspirators in a Hamas funding case involving the Holy Land Foundation. The U.S. government designated the Holy Land Foundation a terrorist organization, seized their assets and closed the organization. In 2009, the founders of the organization were given sentences of between 15 and 67 years in prison for funneling $12 million to Hamas.
CAIR should not be providing supplemental materials to our schools.
There is no indication that CAIR played any role in bringing the idea of these three lessons to LaPorte's attention. Breitbart News specifically posed that question to LaPorte in an email, and has not yet received a response.
It is entirely possible that LaPorte decided on her own to add these lessons in her classes this year for reasons that are presently only known to her.
It also appears that she made this decision without consulting either her high school principal at Riverheads, the curriculum development manager for grades 6 through 12 at Augusta County Public Schools, or Dr. Eric Bond, the Augusta County Public Schools Superintendent.
However LaPorte came to introduce these Islam-centric lessons to her ninth grade World Geography students, one thing is clear: the lessons are not part of the curriculum approved by the Virginia Department of Education.