BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. – A Tennessee parent is on a mission to rid her daughter’s school district of lessons on Islam she contends are offensive to Christians, and she has at least some board members on her side.
“My child’s religious beliefs were violated,” Bluff City Middle School parent Michelle Edmisten told Sullivan County board members on Monday, the Times News reports.
Edmisten pointed to a Pearson text that delves into Islam used by her daughter’s seventh-grade social studies class and mandatory lessons she believes promotes the religion used by terrorists to justify violent acts against Americans.
Questions about the text book were first raised at last month’s Board of Education meeting by local resident Joe Cerone, whom board members refused to allow to speak Monday because he lives just outside of the school district’s boundary, according to the news site.
Edmisten said her daughter refused to complete lessons on Islam that go against her Christian faith, and was issued zeros for the assignments as a result.
“Those are zeros that we proudly took and will not compromise,” she said.
“I will not give up this fight,” Edmisten vowed. “Right this wrong tonight.”
“It is time as parents, teachers, and administrators we stand up and take back our families, our schools, and our country,” she said to applause at the standing room only meeting on Monday, according to WJHL.
The criticism comes after numerous parents across Tennessee, Georgia, and other states objected to education standards on teaching world religions, particularly Islam, in public schools. Many parents expressed frustration that approved texts focus too heavily on Islam while largely ignoring Christianity, and include lessons that force students to recite the Islamic conversion prayer and participate in other questionable conduct, EAGnews reports.
Officials in numerous school districts have pointed to state standards, which are largely aligned with national Common Core standards, that dictate what students must learn and the lack of an opt out process for objectionable lessons.
Tennessee state officials are currently reviewing social studies standards with a focus on scrutinizing religious lessons, but are not expected to implement any changes until 2019-20, which parents like Edmisten believe is far too long.
“I would like to see the Pearson book yanked from the school immediately. I would like to see parents, Christians, veterans, anyone that’s anyone, stand up for this fight,” she told WJHL.
Board member Mark Ireson offered a motion near the end of the Monday meeting to grant Edmisten’s request and remove the Pearson text “because it does not represent the values of the county,” but the motion was tabled after Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski intervened to point out the proper protocol for changing text books, which requires a study committee and public comment at future meetings.
Board chairman Michael Hughes and Rafalowski pointed out to the Times News that Tennessee students do not have the option of opting out of the Islam lessons, and there is currently only two state-approved social studies texts for seventh-graders: the one offered by Pearson and another by McGraw-Hill.
“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,” Hughes said.