hat tip-Margo I.

Friendswood principal who OK’d Islam presentation is OUT

 this PowerPoint presentation given to students May 22 by two women with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Houston.

June 4, 2008 Houston Chronicle

http://blogs.chron.com/schoolzone/2008/06/friendswood_principal_who_okd.html

Our neighborhood reporter, Thayer Evans, received this terse announcement from Friendswood ISD late Wednesday:

Robin Lowe, Friendswood Junior High Principal, has accepted another administrative position effective immediately.

The process for a new junior high principal has begun.

 

If you’ve been reading the online comments (earlier blog posts here and here), you’ll know that Lowe was at the center of a controversy involving this PowerPoint presentation given to students May 22 by two women with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Houston.

I’ve written a story with what we know so far. Read it here. Unfortunately we couldn’t get any comments from district officials because we only learned the news after business hours.

Details have been trickling out. In a letter apologizing to parents and community members on Saturday, Superintendent Trish Hanks said the presentation was in “response to an incident that occurred between students at Friendswood Junior High School and the perception and fear that it caused to some involved.” She also said CAIR considered it a “hate crime.” (Here’s another note where Hanks describes the district’s Quaker roots.)

This evening, I learned from the president of CAIR Houston, Tarek Hussein, that a Muslim boy was physically attacked at the school. He said he didn’t want to provide details because he didn’t have the family’s consent. But the presentation, Hussein said, was meant to educate students in the predominantly Anglo Christian community — Friendswood Junior High is 83 percent Anglo — about Islam and hopefully to prevent future harrassment. Hussein said he hopes to give the presentation at other schools.

#  #  #
 
Principal has new job after ‘Islam 101’ controversy
Parents outraged over assembly allowed by Friendswood Junior High leader
June 5, 2008 Houston Chronicle By ERICKA MELLON
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/5819725.html
 
The Friendswood Junior High principal who outraged some parents by allowing an Islamic group to make a 40-minute presentation to students last month is now off the job.
 
In a two-sentence statement sent late Wednesday, the school district said Robin Lowe “has accepted another administrative position effective immediately.”
 
The news drew relief from some who were incensed by the May 22 presentation and concern from others who considered the assembly a good way for students in the predominantly Anglo Christian school to learn about other cultures.
 
About 875 seventh- and eighth-grade students attended the presentation given by two women with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Houston, according to the school district.
 
The president of the nonprofit council, Tarek Hussein, said he contacted Lowe about conducting an educational presentation after hearing from a father who said his son was physically attacked at the school because he is Muslim.
 
“It was physical harassment. I believe the boy has a medical report,” Hussein said, declining to provide details of the incident because he did not have the family’s consent.
 
Officials with CAIR have described the presentation as “Islam 101.” But parents and community members began flooding the district with complaints after the assembly became a hot topic on Houston talk-radio station 950 AM.
 
Authorized for staff
On Saturday, Friendswood Superintendent Trish Hanks sent a memo to parents and community members saying that she had authorized the presentation for staff only — not for students. She said she had asked her deputy superintendent, Sherry Green, to express that sentiment to Lowe.
 
“It is obvious now,” Hanks wrote, “that a misunderstanding occurred between two very competent and dedicated administrators.”
 
State law allows 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 conducting potentially controversial lessons, said Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency.
 
Hanks, in her letter, described Friendswood as “a faith-based community” and apologized to parents.
 
“My concern for our community and for our students is not as much with the content of the presentation as explained to me,” she wrote, “but with the fact that a group had an audience with our students without consent from parents or this administration.”
 
“I am not surprised by the community’s reaction,” she continued. “Most of you receiving this letter have had years of experience with this district and know the kinds of activities your child has been exposed to in school. This was an isolated incident and a mistake.”
 
Hanks did not respond to a phone message left late Wednesday, and her spokeswoman could not be reached for comment. Lowe also could not be reached.
 
David Bradley, a member of the State Board of Education whose district includes Friendswood, said parents have been contacting him to express outrage about the presentation. He said an assembly about Islam was a waste of tax dollars and 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.”
 
Discussed facts
Asma Siddiqi, one of the presenters with the American-Islamic council, said she simply discussed facts about Islam, sticking to a PowerPoint slide show. The council provided a copy of the presentation to the Houston Chronicle. Titled “Islam: Respecting Diversity,” it discusses the size of the Muslim population, the basic tenets of the religion and the dating customs.
 
“I presented who Muslims are and the beliefs they have,” said Siddiqi, the local council’s communications director. “It was also focusing on getting to know your Muslim classmates better.”
 
Hussein said his organization has done a similiar presentation in the Clear Creek school district and he plans to ask other districts for an opportunity to present because Muslim students often get teased and called “terrorists” since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
 
“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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