Principal reassigned over Islam presentation

June 5, 2008 7:22:52 AM PDT
A junior high school principal who allowed a group to make a presentation about Islam to students is no longer on the job.Robin Lowe "has accepted another administrative position effective immediately," the school district said in a statement late Wednesday.

Lowe was the principal of Friendswood Junior High when the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Houston gave a presentation described as "Islam 101" to about 875 seventh- and eighth-grade students last month, the district said.

Council president Tarek Hussein said he contacted Lowe about the educational presentation after hearing from a father who said his son was physically attacked at the school because he is Muslim. Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Muslim students often get teased and called terrorists, Hussein pointed out.

But community members and parents of children at the predominantly Anglo and Christian school complained about the assembly.

David Bradley, a member of the State Board of Education whose district includes Friendswood, said the assembly was not an appropriate response to an attack on a student.

"There's a personal incident between two students and as a result of that we're going to yank everyone out of class?" he said. "I got beat up in junior high. Did my dad go down and force all the kids to sit through sensitivity training in their P.E. class? No, that's absurd. The coach gave us licks and sent us home. That was the end of those incidents."

Friendswood Superintendent Trish Hanks sent a letter to parents and community members saying she had authorized the presentation for staff only.

"My concern for our community and for our students is not as much with the content of the presentation as explained to me but with the fact that a group had an audience with our students without consent from parents or this administration," Hanks wrote.

Texas law lets parents to remove their children from a class or activity that conflicts with their religious or moral beliefs. But schools are not required to send home permission slips before delving into potentially controversial lessons, said Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.

CAIR's Houston chapter has done a similar presentation on Islam in the Clear Creek School District and plans to ask other districts for a chance to present the program, Hussein said.

"We have to be good to each other and understand each other better," he said. "That's why we offer this program."

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