Public Middle School parents angered over field trip to Islamic & Hindu places of worship

“It is not to promote religious understanding, it is to promote an agenda,” stated one parent to the Northeast Intelligence Network.

Douglas J. Hagmann, Director

7 June 2007: The Williamsville, NY Public School District has angered a number of parents of Mill Middle School students and stirred controversy by scheduling a field trip to a local Mosque and Islamic Center as well as a Hindu Temple. A letter obtained Tuesday by talk radio host Tom Bauerle of the Tom Bauerle Show on WBEN AM 930 (below) was sent home with the permission slips to be signed by the students’ parents on Monday, granting the students permission to attend Wednesday’s excursion to the Muslim mosque and Islamic Center and Hindu religious institutions to provide the students “a broader understanding of these religious beliefs and worship practices.”

Some parents, however, are suggesting duplicity by the school district with regard to religious exposure and are taking issue with making the students adhere to a Muslim fundamentalist dress code while visiting the mosque. Parents speaking to WBEN note that the strongly secular Williamsville School District included no plans to visit a Catholic church or Jewish Synagogue. Also, non-Muslim students were required to adhere to the strict Islamic dress code – shorts are not permitted to be worn and all female students had to bring and wear an appropriate head covering to the mosque. “It would be akin to “a Muslim student having to wear a cross to visit a church,” stated one parent to WBEN.

Dr. Cindy Beeley, a school district administrator in charge of cultural issues, defended the trip and denied that the female students were being forced to wear head scarves, adding that they do not have to enter the mosque part of the Islamic Center. “If they do, they would have to remove their shoes and women need to cover their heads,” Ms. Beeley told WBEN. And as far as visits to other religious centers, they could not be arranged due to scheduling conflicts due to an October, 2006 snow storm, she added.

One parent stated that is only partially correct, and Ms. Beeey was not being completely forthcoming with her statements, including those she made during a WBEN interview where she described the trip as an opportunity to explore other cultures. A major part of the field trip, however, involves going into the mosque, ostensibly to give students what the letter states  “broader understanding of these religious beliefs and worship practices.”

If it is truly about promoting a broader understanding of religious beliefs, where are the visits to Christian churches and Jewish Synagogues? According to Ms. Beeley, a trip to a local church could not be arranged because of last October’s winter storm. “But this trip was initially planned in April, five months after the storm” added the parent. Also, Dr. Beeley could not account for the lack of parental notice. Although the excursion had been planned for a few months, permission slips were sent home with the students only 2 days before the trip.

As for the traditional Islamic dress code, “Dr. Beeley made it sound like it was completely optional,”  added the angered parent, stating that such attire was only required if the students entered the mosque. The mosque was a major part of the trip. “What Ms. Beeley failed to disclose - lied about - was that any student who chose not to wear the headscarf or adhere to the dress code, they would be made to stay in the bus. To me, this trip is not to promote religious understanding, but to promote the agenda of a specific Middle Eastern religion,” added the parent.

“I feel that this was handled wrong,” adding another parent interviewed by the Northeast Intelligence Network, and “now they are trying to cover their backsides.”  The parent, asking not to be identified because her child attends Mill Middle School, summarized her thoughts by saying that she felt “that [the trip] was one-sided and not about cultural diversity but all about a religious agenda. Are the Muslim children scheduled to tour Christian churches and Jewish Temples? I don’t think so, I don’t think that would be tolerated by their faith, let alone taught in their Islamic school.”

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