Periodically, I go back to read the local news on The Daily News Leader, the website for the paper I grew up reading. Nearly 15 years ago, I packed up my stuff and left Augusta County, Virginia – and haven’t been back since 2004. The Shenandoah Valley area is where I was born and raised, so this latest news out of the area comes as no surprise. Apparently some parents had a freakout over their kids learning about Islam, and it got so bad that law enforcement decided to close school the day before winter break.
Yes, Augusta County schools are closed on Friday due to how tense the situation has become, all because some ignorant parents thought that learning about a religion was the same as endorsing one, or even indoctrinating children into it. Oh wait, that’s what Christian evangelicals have been trying to do to school kids for years in violation of the First Amendment.
The statement said: “Following parental objections to the World Geography curriculum and ensuing related media coverage, the school division began receiving voluminous phone calls and electronic mail locally and from outside the area.”
The statement goes on to say that the communication has increased Thursday and due to the concerning “tone and content” the decision was made by Bond and Sheriff Fisher to close school on Friday.
“While there has been no specific threat of harm to students, schools and school offices will be closed Friday, December 18, 2015,” the statement said. “All extra-curricular activities are likewise cancelled for tonight, Thursday, December 17, through the weekend. We regret having to take this action, but we are doing so based on the recommendations of law enforcement and the Augusta County School Board out of an abundance of caution.” (Source)
All of this stems from outrage by some parents in the Augusta County school system over their children learning about Islam in world geography class at Riverheads High School. This isn’t students being compelled to say Islamic prayers, or promoting a religion – it was high school students learning about Muslim culture and beliefs. Granted, the assignment could have been something other than writing out an Islamic statement of faith, but the collective ignorant freakout over the whole thing is completely uncalled for.
I should also remind you that the same school system has had a history of allegedly allowing bullying of kids who do not attend the optional weekday religious education program, and also had a school-sponsored prayer invocation the very day after this controversy first erupted.
As an atheist, I believe it is very important for children to learn about all the religions of the world and their impact on history. Understanding other beliefs and cultures is important to becoming a well-rounded and informed person, especially if you ever venture outside of the county you grew up in.
Fortunately, it looks like cooler heads may prevail and many parents and students have shown their support for the teacher, Cheryl LaPorte. It’s just incredibly sad that in this day and age, we’ve allowed ignorance and intolerance to become so acceptable. If you don’t believe me, just remember, Donald Trump is the most popular Republican candidate for president.
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