After her daughter brought home failing grades on several social studies assignments, one Tennessee mother has complained to the school board. Her daughter's poor grades, she explained, are due to the fact that the school's lessons on Islam are against their religion.
As WJHL News reports, Michelle Edmisten's daughter recently completed a social studies unit on Islam. The class included multiple assignments which the seventh grader refused to complete based on the conviction that they violated her beliefs as a Christian. Her mother tells the Kingsport Times-News that her daughter's grade fell from an “A” to a “C” as a result.
The bad grades prompted Edmisten to demand that parents be able to opt-out of religious history classes. She also testified before the Sullivan County Board of Education, asking that they immediately remove the textbook on which the Islam lessons are based. As she told WJHL:
“How can I, as a Christian, say that I have these values? And I want to instill these values in my daughter, but then say its okay go ahead and do it.”
Though she was the lone speaker at the school board meeting, Edmisten told WJHL:
“It is time as parents, teachers, and administrators we stand up and take back our families, our schools, and our country.”
Chairman of the Board of Education Michael Hughes, said he sympathized with Edmisten. However, he explained to WJHL that replacing the textbook may not be the answer, as the subsequent book could have similar problems:
“It's not like we have the option to get rid of the book, and get a book that don’t have those standards, so then the question becomes, can we find a textbook that is that much different, and is it worth it.”
Evelyn Rafalowski, director of schools, further explained that there is a protocol that must be followed when it comes to removing a textbook. In the meantime, the entire social studies curriculum is under review and the Board is considering the possibility of an opt-out system for parents.
The issue of how to teach religion in schools has become a state-wide controversy. Tennessee law prohibits proselytizing in any social studies class, and some school board members say they understand Edmisten's concerns.
School board member Jane Thomas says that the curriculum in question is not age-appropriate and has been the subject of debate for more than a year. Thomas told the Kingsport News-Times that the school lessons may interfere with students' First Amendment right to practice their religion:
“Allah is not almighty God. We’ve got to stand up for our American Constitution. ... We want all kinds of education according to American values. I do not want them (students) indoctrinated.”
According to CBN News, the state of Tennessee has released a new draft of the standards for middle school social studies that removes a significant portion of the lessons regarding Islam. That draft will be open for public comment until October 28th.