Classroom teacher, Cheri Laporte, asked students to practice “calligraphy” by copying the Muslim statement of faith, also known as the shahada, which translates as:
“There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”
Recitation of the shahada is a fundamental step in conversion to Islam.
According to parents, students were not informed of the translation or of the specific meaning of the Arabic text the students were being asked to copy. In addition, parents confirm that female students were invited to don Muslim apparel and subsequently were photographed in costume by the teacher. (Reportedly, an administrator has since disposed of the photos.)
A post-assignment emergency meeting held with the teacher, a parent, and schools administration yielded the following additional information:
- Teacher Laporte was aware of the translation of the text assigned and was unapologetic over the assignment itself
- Apparel representing other religions was not presented in the lesson
- Teacher Laporte previously had circulated a Koran in the classroom, but had intentionally declined to make a Bible available because “all of the students already have read or seen a Bible”
- School administration confirmed that this lesson was not in the Augusta School Division’s approved curriculum for World Geography
After the meeting, one parent responded in reference to the teacher:
I do not trust her to teach my son and regardless of the outcome he will not sit in her classroom. I am in the process of forgiving her but I do not trust her.
Riverheads High School Principal, Max Lowe, did not directly acknowledge an inquiry requesting confirmation of the incident, clarification of policy, and disciplinary measures, if any, taken against Ms. Laporte.
A community meeting of concerned parents is scheduled for further discussion of the assignment and its aftermath.