August County (Virginia) schools are closed today after a World Geography teacher asked students to copy an example of Arabic calligraphy and parents leveled charges of “indoctrination” into Islam.
“The students were presented with the statement to demonstrate the complex artistry of the written language used in the Middle East, and were asked to attempt to copy it in order to give the students an idea of the artistic complexity of the calligraphy,” superintendent Eric Bond told local outlet The News Leader. He added that the statement—which meant “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”—was not translated and students were not asked to “recite it or otherwise adopt or pronounce it as a personal belief.”
NBC 4 Washington reports that after receiving tons of negative calls and emails from both inside and outside the district, the sheriff advised Bond to close the schools for the day. Bond issued a statement earlier today providing more insight into his decision to close the schools early for winter break, including "risk of harm to school officials" and threats of disruptive protests on school property.
Augusta superintendent says risk of "harm to school officials" and worries about disruption prompted school closures pic.twitter.com/8PPLSltzNa
— NBC29 (@NBC29) December 18, 2015
District officials say the lesson will still be taught moving forward, per state standards regarding education in world religions, but teachers will use a new, non-religious, sample.
There has been a marked increase in Islamophobia in the United States and abroad in the weeks following the Paris terrorism attacks and San Bernardino shooting.