Photo courtesy of Melissa Wood
A father of a student at La Plata High School in Maryland was banned from school grounds last week when he took issue with a lesson on the history of Islam in his daughter’s World History class.
On Wednesday evening, Kevin Wood, a former corporal with the U.S. Marine Corps, saw his daughter, a junior at the school, working on a homework assignment that examined Islam. “It’s not a religion my husband believes in,” Kevin’s wife, Melissa, tells Yahoo Parenting. “My husband’s issues, and mine too, are that they’re teaching Islam, but they are not teaching the current events on Islam. They are making Islam sound like [its followers] are peaceful people.… He is not saying all Muslims are bad.”
Melissa says she and her husband asked the school to give their daughter an alternative assignment, but were told that she either do the assignment or receive grades of zero. “That didn’t sit well with my husband,” Melissa says. “He said, ‘I will bring down a sh*t storm on the school. I’m contacting the media, the newspaper, and contacting an attorney.’ He did not say he would come to the school and create a disruption.”
Shortly after that conversation, however, the school issued Kevin a no-trespass order.
“This parent threatened to cause problems that would potentially disrupt La Plata High School,” Katie O’Malley-Simpson, Director of Communications for Charles County Public Schools, tells Yahoo Parenting. “[The no-trespass order] is to ensure the safety of the students and staff of the school.”
The no-trespass order, photo courtesy of Melissa Wood
The school’s social studies curriculum adheres to Maryland standards, O’Malley-Simpson says, and World History is one of three social studies classes, along with American History and U.S. Government, required for graduation. In a few specific instances, like Sex-Ed, parents are allowed to opt out. “If a certain book is required for Language Arts, but the main lesson is for students to read and discuss a book and analyze the writing, an alternative assignment is easily given,” she says. “That’s not the case with World History or other history classes, because the content is what it is. If you miss that lesson, you haven’t met the standards of that class.”
Melissa says she and her husband should be allowed input regarding what her daughter studies, noting, “As parents, we feel that we should have a say if we choose we do not want our child to study a certain religion.”
The school says it is not teaching religion, but history. A statement provided to Yahoo Parenting by the school reads: “The particular unit in question at La Plata High School is on the formation of Middle Eastern empires, in which students learned the basic concepts of the Islamic faith and how it, along with politics, culture, economics, and geography, contributed to the development of the Middle East. Other religions are introduced when they influence or impact a particular historical era or geographic region.”
During the two weeks that the lesson on Islam has been taught, Kevin and Melissa’s daughter has been pulled out of the classroom, spending that time in the library. Tomorrow, she will return to class, having received zeros on this portion of the curriculum.
In November, the Woods will meet with the Board of Education and the school principal to go over the rest of the year’s curriculum, Melissa says, at which point it will be decided whether or not the no-trespass order will be lifted. “I want to take this further, because I feel like if they don’t take it out of the curriculum, parents should at least have the authority to say if they want their kids to participate,” she says. “There should be alternative assignments to this.”
O’Mally-Simpson says parents are free to reach out to the school and voice their opinions, but the school curriculum mirrors the state’s standard. Still, she says, “This doesn’t happen often. We rarely issue a no-trespass order.”