Education officials in a Virginia county have cancelled classes Friday over security concerns sparked by parents’ outrage in response to an Arabic calligraphy lesson.
Augusta County School Board President Eric Bond announced Thursday that schools would be closed Friday.
In his statement, Bond said the decision to cancel classes was made ‘out of an abundance of caution’ after consulting with law enforcement. He noted that there was no specific threat to students but did not elaborate on the exact nature of the safety concerns.
The incident that sparked the furor resulting in Friday’s sweeping school closures took place a week ago during a world geography class at Riverheads High School, where a teacher gave her ninth-graders an assignment that included practicing calligraphy by copying a piece of Arabic text known as the shahada, which is a Muslim statement of faith.
Recitation of the shahada in public is the first formal step in conversion to Islam. However, according to school officials, the ninth-graders were not asked to translate the statement or read it aloud.
Bond said that the school district received ‘voluminous’ phone calls and emails about the controversial lesson on Islam, which went viral on social media thanks to the efforts of a local parents and made national headlines.
‘The communications have significantly increased in volume [Thursday], and based on concerns regarding the tone and content of those communications, Sheriff [Randall] Fisher and Dr. Bond mutually decided schools and school offices will be closed,’ the statement put out by the district said.
The county also pulled the plug on all extracurricular activities through the weekend.
Augusta County students officially go on their winter break beginning Monday and won’t be back to school until January 4.
According to Bond’s statement, going forward, a ‘non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy’ will be used to teach students in the world geography class about Islam.
On December 11, students in Cheryl LaPorte’s world geography class were asked to practice calligraphy by copying the Islamic creed and were also shown copies of the Koran; female students were invited to try on a scarf as part of a lesson about the Islamic concept of modest dress.
Parent Kimberly Herndon was infuriated when her son came home with the assignment sheet from Mrs LaPorte’s class.
‘When I saw the language, the Arabic language, immediately I had a bad feeling come over me,’ the mother of six told NBC29.
Herndon, who is a devout Christian, accused the teacher of indoctrinating unsuspecting students into the Islamic faith. The mother has not sent her son back to school since the incident and said she would be willing to take this case all the way to the US Supreme Court if she must.
Read more: Daily Mail