Friday, February 05, 2016

Christian Family Sues Over ‘Islamic Indoctrination’ Homework

A Maryland couple are suing their county school system, the school board, and their daughter’s high school principal over what they claim was “Islamic indoctrination and propaganda” in a world history class.

John Kevin Wood and his wife, Melissa, say they are Christians and were upset to learn their 16-year-old daughter brought home homework that characterized Muslims as having “stronger” faith than Christians.

As The Daily Signal previously reported, the Woods also took issue with the assertion that “Islam, at heart, is a peaceful religion.”

They say their daughter was forced to write out and say the Shahada, the Islamic profession of faith: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan-based Christian nonprofit, filed the lawsuit on the couple’s behalf in federal District Court in Maryland.

The Woods are suing Maryland’s Charles County public school system, the Board of Education, La Plata High School Principal Evelyn Arnold, and Vice Principal Shannon Morris.

“The Wood family’s case is important, and indicative of developments throughout the country where schools are teaching Islam in ways that are denigrating to other religions,” Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, told The Daily Signal.

He added:

"Teachers of Islam are doing things that would never be tolerated for other religions, like spending more time on Islam, reciting its five pillars, and making its confession of faith. That would never be tolerated for other religions. There is no memorizing of the Ten Commandments or the Nicene Creed, which is the statement of faith for Catholics and many Protestants."

Wood is a former Marine and firefighter who fought and lost comrades in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

In October 2014, Wood was angered when he saw the world history homework that read, in part, “Most Muslim’s [sic] faith is stronger than the average Christian.”

He said he told La Plata High officials he planned to pursue “lawyers and the media” if the school continued to “retaliate against” his daughter “for her adherence to her Christian faith.”

In response, he said, the school’s vice principal barred Wood from setting foot on school property.

“We are here to vindicate the rights of John, his wife, and their daughter,” Thompson said. “We are here to vindicate their right to religious beliefs and the freedom not to violate [those beliefs].”

It’s not that simple, says Andrew Kloster, a legal fellow in the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Kloster said in an email:

"If you look at the school materials, it is sometimes unclear if the student is being asked to fill in statements related to how Muslims view themselves (this would be unobjectionable), or whether the statements are considered ‘objective’ (which would be factually wrong, but within the right of a school board in terms of setting curriculum), or whether the student is being asked to personally endorse the statements."

Ultimately, whatever the legal result, the tone of the worksheet is extremely problematic and smacks of political correctness and Islamic theology. To avoid lawsuits and bad publicity like this, schools should generally have policies in place to accommodate reasonable requests by religious students—it would take only a few minutes to come up with alternative questions that are more sensitive and less biased.

Thompson said Thomas More Law Center will file a preliminary injunction for the ban against Wood’s visiting the school within the next two weeks so that he may attend his daughter’s graduation.


Dept. of Education Is an Informational Security Threat

The Department of Education sits on millions of Americans' sensitive data, and the chief information officer of the agency acts as though protecting that data is a part-time job, The Wall Street Journal reports.

On Tuesday, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing into Education’s informational security and to scrutinize CIO Danny Harris' conduct because House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz thinks the Department of Education is vulnerable to the kind of hack that the Office of Personnel Management experienced last year. If you recall, the hack that was blamed on Chinese hackers netted the sensitive data of every federal employee, past and present — 21.5 million people.

The Department of Education keeps 139 million Social Security numbers in its records and gives out billions of dollars in grants and loans. In fiscal year 2015, it failed to detect a hack performed by the department’s inspector general auditing Education’s compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act. In other words, these records lying within the Department of Education are fat targets for foreign governments or organized crime.

Meanwhile, the CIO Harris has been in hot water in 2013 for running side businesses. Year over year, the Department of Education has expanded its role in education by giving out money so American youth can attend college. Now it has shown it can’t handle the responsibility of managing the information of some of the nation’s brightest.


A debate over transgender students using opposite-sex bathrooms erupts in South Dakota

South Dakota could soon become the first state in the nation to pass legislation that would ban students from using public school bathrooms, locker rooms and showers that are opposite from their biological sex.

“I’m concerned about what I see happening in schools across our country,” said Rep. Fred Deutsch, a Republican from Florence who introduced a bill last week that would ban transgender students from using school facilities opposite from their biological sex.

    "Federal bureaucrats, without the force of federal law, are threatening to withhold federal funding from schools that do not allow transgender students full, unrestricted access to facilities of the opposite biological sex. I don’t want that to happen in South Dakota. And I especially don’t want our children to be required by the federal government to shower, change or use restrooms with other young people of the opposite biological sex"

The bill, HB 1008, passed the House last week by a vote of 58 to 10. The measure is expected to be taken up by the Senate this week.

Left-leaning groups like the Human Rights Campaign said the bill is “nothing more than a vile attack on students who are already vulnerable to high rates of discrimination and harassment.”

“The South Dakota House of Representatives’ vote in favor of discrimination against transgender students is alarming and appalling,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC senior vice president for Policy and Political Affairs at the Human Rights Council, in a press release. “Fair-minded South Dakotans absolutely must stand up now and demand their lawmakers in the Senate stop this hateful legislation from moving any further.”

The legislation requires that a “reasonable accommodation” be made for students asserting their gender is different from their biological sex, and described a reasonable accommodation as “one that does not impose an undue hardship on a school district,” “a single-occupancy restroom,” “a unisex restroom,” or the “controlled use of a restroom, locker room or shower room that is designated for use by faculty.”

Deutch views his legislation as a necessary response to what he considers “aggressive” actions on behalf of the Obama administration to ensure schools comply with guidance they issued in April 2014.

That guidance states that Title IX protects transgender students from sex discrimination.

Title IX is the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program that receives federal funding. Prior to the 2014 issued guidance, it was unclear whether or not the law applied to students using sex-segregated facilities.

If schools do not comply with Title IX laws, they could be at risk of losing their federal funding.

Last year, a school in Palatine, Ill., experienced that first-hand, when the Department of Education threatened to strip them of millions of dollars in federal funding for refusing to grant a transgender student who was born male but identifies as female full, unrestrained access to the girls locker rooms.

In its investigation, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights ruled that Township High School District 211 had discriminated against the student “on the basis of sex.”

However, that ruling conflicts with two decisions handed down in Pennsylvania and Virginia, where courts ruled that Title IX does not apply to the issue of transgender students using sex-segregated facilities.

A similar case in Fairfax, Va., could elevate the legal debate. There, a teen who was born female but identifies as male is taking the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, where its decision could have a national impact.


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