Augusta Co. schools closed Friday due to controversial assignment

Augusta Co. schools closed Friday due to controversial assignment

AUGUSTA, VA (WVIR/WWBT) - Augusta County schools are closed Friday after a slew of calls and emails stemming from a controversial assignment involving Arabic, according to WVIR.

Some Augusta County parents raised concerns on Tuesday after calling a student assignment anti-American. Some called it an Islamic indoctrination, but the school superintendent says the assignments are cultural lessons, not a religious statement.

"When I saw the language, the Arabic language, immediately, I had a bad feeling come over me," concerned parent Kimberly Herndon told WVIR.

The assignment involved ninth-grade students at Riverheads High School to copy the Shahada. "She told us the paper meant faith, so we didn't think anything of it," ninth-grader Laurel Truxell said. Students found out they translated a message that said, "There is no other God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger."

The assignment also involved students dressing up, wearing the Hijab, according to WVIR.

Parent Kimberly Herndon shared her feelings about the assignment on Facebook, which was shared more than 770 times. Her post sparked a community meeting Tuesday night. "These children were deceived when they were told it was calligraphy. This is not calligraphy. This is a language."

The Superintendent for Augusta County Schools issued a statement saying, "neither these lessons, nor any other lesson in the world geography course, are an attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion, or a request for students to renounce their own faith or profess any belief." The superintendent said students will have similar assignments when studying other cultures.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights released the following statement:

At the same time that schools are censoring "Silent Night" from being sung at their annual "holiday" concerts, others are forcing students to pay homage to Muhammad. Regarding the latter, when a teacher at Riverheads High School in Virginia assigned students to practice calligraphy by writing, "There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah," the school district defended the decision. Many parents strongly disagreed and the ensuing ruckus led officials to close the school today. It should stay closed until sanity prevails.

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