Parental outrage over a lesson in Islam shut down an entire Virginia school system Friday, after dozens of parents inundated the administration with angry emails and phone calls.
"Following parental objections to the World Geography curriculum and ensuing related media coverage, the school division began receiving voluminous phone calls and electronic mail locally and from outside the area," the Augusta County School District stated on its website. "As a result of those communications, the Sheriff’s Office and the school division coordinated to increase police presence at Augusta County schools and to monitor those communications."
"The communications have significantly increased in volume today and based on concerns regarding the tone and content of those communications...(it was) decided schools and school offices will be closed on Friday, December 18, 2015," it added, qualifying that "there has been no specific threat of harm to students."
The media storm struck after a geography teacher at Riverheads High in Staunton, VA gave assignments familiarizing students with Islam, including having students try on the Islamic head covering, the hijab, and copying Arabic calligraphy.
Outrage grew after the phrase students were assigned to copy was revealed to be “There is no god but Allah. Mohammed is the messenger of Allah," the Staunton News Leader reported earlier this week.
The students were not told what the phrase meant nor asked to translate, but merely that the phrase was an example of calligraphy. Recitation of the line is considered enough to constitute conversion according to Islam.
The Augusta County School Board insisted Friday that "no lesson was designed to promote a religious viewpoint or change any student’s religious belief."
"Although students will continue to learn about world religions as required by the state Board of Education and the Commonwealth’s Standards of Learning, a different, non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy will be used in the future," it added.