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Virginia School District Closed Over Arabic Assignment

2 minute read

A school district in Virginia is closed Friday over an assignment that some parents and community members felt was a form of Islamic indoctrination.

On Dec. 11 during a Geography lesson on world religions, teacher Cheryl LaPorte at Riverheads High School had her students write out an Islamic statement of faith to practice calligraphy, the Staunton News Leader reports. The statement translates to, “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

The students were not asked to translate or speak the sentence, but local parents were outraged at the assignment, seeing it as a form of Islamic proselytization in a public school.

In a post on the Augusta County Public Schools website, the school board announced the district would be closed Friday “following parental objections to the World Geography curriculum and ensuing related media coverage… voluminous phone calls and electronic mail locally and from outside the area.”

The statement says there “has been no specific threat of harm to students,” but that the closure was ordered “based on concerns regarding the tone and content of those communications.”

According to the Washington Post, the school district serves about 10,000 students in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia about 150 miles outside Washington, D.C.

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Write to Tessa Berenson at tessa.Rogers@time.com