Byron School District Refutes Claims that Islam

Byron School District Refutes Claims that Islam

Byron, CA–The staff of the Byron Union School District and especially of its Excelsior School have spent the day fielding indignant and often threatening phone calls, e-mails, and faxes–virtually all from outside the community–based on a story by the Reverend Austin Miles of the ASSIST News Service and picked up by radio station 560 KSFO.

The accusation is that the Byron Union School District is instructing their students in Islam. The inflammatory language used states that “the students are mandated to learn the tenets of Islam, study the important figures of the faith, wear a robe, adopt a Muslim name and stage their own Jihad.”

The truth? In response to the public’s cry for accountability, California has adopted a set of content standards for public schools. In grade seven, one of the eleven World History and Geography standards is–“Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the civilizations of Islam in the Middle Ages.” (The full text of all standards can be found on the California Department of Education Web site, < >.) Students also learn about Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and other major religions as they apply to the understanding of history and the development of major Western and non-Western civilizations.

In order to engage students’ interest, the Teacher Curriculum Institute outlines various activities and games to illustrate aspects of these social structures. Dressing up in costume, role-playing and simulation games are all used to stimulate class discussion and are common teaching practices used in other subjects as well.

People interested in reviewing the content of the curriculum can find it in the textbook, Across the Centuries, published by Houghton-Mifflin (Boston, MA). A copy is available for public viewing at the Contra Costa County Office of Education, 77 Santa Barbara Road, Pleasant Hill.

“We are sorry for the misinformation that has been picked up by the media and the distress it has caused to parents and members of the public,” said Superintendent Peggy Green. “The Byron School District is not ‘teaching religion’; we are teaching the California state-mandated standards with state adopted textbooks. The public school system was established to educate all children. In light of the events of this past year, it is imperative that our instruction includes an understanding of and insight into all cultures and a tolerance for the diversity found in the world. As such, public schools do not “indoctrinate” children on various religions, but they do expose them to the belief systems that have impacted the formation of our world.”

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