When a Colorado school district asked schoolgirls to cover their heads with a wide scarf or hoodie to abide by the dress code of the mosque they would visit to learn about religion for a voluntary field trip, angry parents unleashed their rage.
With the growth of Islam in the West, many are wondering how the public education system should approach the subject of religion. Some argue that religion must be taught in schools in order for students to understand the cultural and ideological differences in our melting-pot society while others insist that such a delicate social subject should be left up to the parents.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, many American schools are implementing curricula that touch on the subject of religious theology, including Islam and its tenets. Just how certain schools are teaching this controversial topic has some parents passionately voicing their concerns.
In an effort to educate students on major religions, the Douglas County School District of Colorado informed parents that students would be attending a voluntary field trip to the Colorado Muslim Society’s Majid Abu Bakar as well as a synagogue and Greek Orthodox cathedral.
What sparked the parents’ outrage was the dress code outlined in a letter sent home to students, which required that while every student was expected to wear “appropriate long pants,” the female students “must bring scarves or hooded sweatshirts for the mosque,” according to The Daily Caller.
While many were upset that students were expected to dress in accordance with Islam’s religious customs, others felt that asking the girls to cover their hair was sexist. Voicing this concern was KNUS 710 radio host Peter Boyles, who stated that the school district is “holding these girls to a different standard.”
Hoping to get some answers, Boyles reached out to Rocky Heights Middle School principal Mike Loitz, who confirmed that the school did ask its students to comply with the religion-inspired dress code. It was because of this, and not the fact that students were learning about Islam, that Boyles believes that parents were concerned.
“Islam dictates many, I believe – personal belief – repressive practices against women and Islamophobia will trump women’s rights,” Boyles said. “Animal rights every time, and the environment. That’s their belief – that’s wonderful. But don’t apply it to public school kids.”
Some maintain that students should be taught to respect every religion and its customs. However, others believe that the district has gone too far and actually forced students to obey certain religious tenets.
In response to the backlash, the school district released a statement defending its decision and clarifying the requirements. Officials explained that although the dress code was mandatory, participating in the field trip was optional, according to WND.
“If the decision is made to not participate in a field trip, alternative educational opportunities are provided,” the district said. “This is true for any DCSD field trip, including the RHMS world religion field trip.”
The district concluded that they are merely trying to educate students on the basic tenets of major world religions and will leave the formation of their personal beliefs up to them and their parents. Still, many feel skeptical about what their children would be learning.
However you feel about religion, it’s undeniable that parents will be protective over what their children are taught on the subject. Faith is a powerful aspect of humanity, and most just aren’t convinced that our government is the best teacher for future generations on this deeply complicated issue. Religion is a course that’s better taught at home.