Parents, students and community members convened in a public forum to discuss the controversy stemming from a picture posted on facebook of LHS students posing in traditional Islam clothing. -Photo by Andrea Whitney
Parents, students and residents of Lumberton gathered this past week in a standing room only public hearing to discuss an issue that has become a huge point of controversy and embroilment.
The issue of LISD students posing for a picture wearing traditional muslim attire did not take long to earn viral status once the picture appeared on Facebook and the school district has been thrust into a tail spin ever since.
Parents, LHS students and local citizens took to the podium to express their approval and disapproval, support and anger, as the board listened intently hoping to come to some sort of resolution.
Several parents aired their concerns with the lesson stating that it pushed the Muslim faith. Others were concerned with the curriculum as a whole because it has ties to known communists, one parent stated.
On the other side of the issue, were supporters who spoke of the need to educate our students on other cultures across the world.
Local resident James Whiteley stated that as a parent of three Lumberton graduates, he was proud of the school and what they were doing. Whiteley stated he received a call from his son, who is a graduate of Westpoint and has served in active duty, regarding the issue.
"My son stated that he wished LISD had the curriculum when he was attending," Whitely said. "Had he have been educated on Islam culture, and the ways of a culture a world away, he wouldn't have been as shocked once he arrived in Iraq."
Whitely ended his speech by asking everyone to put the bickering aside and work as a team with a united goal, "Let us come and reason together."
LHS student Zack Kalles, approached the board and had praise for the district. Kalles stated that as a student of LHS, he feels that the district and schools are performing well and that it was unfortunate that the issue had gotten so blown out of proportion.
Kalles also stated that he was in the class and knew that no student was forced to wear the burqas and the World Geography class was simply studying diverse cultures.
Other issues stemming from the incident were also brought to the forefront by parents of students who felt their children were bullied and intimidated into signing an incident report without their parent's presence.
Superintendent John Valastro and members of the board heard each and every speaker that had signed in to speak and even one who had not. Valastro addressed the gathering of concerned with a heartfelt speech that voiced the board's feeling and concerns as well.
"CSCOPE is a curriculum that was adopted by the district recently and is only in it's second year," Valastro stated at the board meeting. "As with any new endeavor, the board and its educators are taking all measures to ensure that the curriculum is good for the students and does not leave them with any ill effects. The CSCOPE curriculum is used by teachers as a 'timeline and guideline' to access the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and educators are able to customize it to fit each lesson."
Board member James Glenn also ensured parents concerned about the bullying issues that may have taken place as a result of the incident that all matters have been properly documented and will not be "swept under the rug." Glenn stated that each and every matter would be tended to with the student's best interest at heart.
Valastro ended the forum making a public apology for any detrimental effects felt by the actions of the district.
He ended by stating that it's time to get back to the task of educating our students and preparing them for the future and apologized if any hurt was felt.
"We are all in this together . We are on your side."
The board will continue to evaluate CSCOPE and work with parents and students towards a resolution.