An Advanced Placement World Geography teacher at a Texas high school who encouraged students to dress in Islamic clothing also instructed them to refer to the 9-11 hijackers not as terrorists – but as “freedom fighters,” according to students who were in the class.
Students at Lumberton High School were also told to stop referring to the Holocaust as Genocide – instead they were told to use the term “ethnic cleansing.”
John Valastro, the superintendent of the Lumberton Independent School District, tells me that the teacher did absolutely nothing wrong.
“What is more dangerous – fear and ignorance or education and understanding,” he asked. “From our standpoint, we are here to educate the kids.
Valastro said the teacher involved is a 32-year veteran who was simply following state teaching guidelines.
“I don’t think my freshman-level teacher was trying to politicize radical Islam or anything like that,” he said. “I don’t think our teacher has...to my knowledge ever converted a single student to Islam.”
The Islamic lessons in the small public high school generated national attention after a photograph of four female students wearing burqas surfaced on Facebook.
April LeBlanc’s 15-year-old daughter was one of the students in the photograph. She told me that many parents in the district feel betrayed by school officials.
“My biggest thing is not the burqa,” she said. “That was the key to opening up the rest. It’s scary how far they dove into the Islamic faith. It’s scary what they taught my daughter. Who’s in charge of this? How did our superintendent let this slip through the cracks?”
LeBlanc said the students were told that they could no longer use the terms suicide bomber or terrorist. Instead, they were instructed to use the words “freedom fighters.”
“This teacher taught her that a freedom fighter is when they give their life for the Holy War – and that they’re going to go to heaven,” she said. “They were saturating these kids in Islam and my daughter is an American Christian child.”
Madelyn LeBlanc told me that it was clear her teacher was very uncomfortable lecturing the students.
“I do have a lot of sympathy for her,” the 15-year-old said. “At the very beginning she said she didn’t want to teach it but it was in the curriculum.”
Her mother added that it was her impression that the teacher did not agree with the quote about calling the terrorists freedom fighters and laced her lecture with sarcasm.
During a lesson on Judaism, LeBlanc said the teacher told the class, “Students, I’m supposed to be politically correct and tell you that the Holocaust was not Genocide. It was an ethnic cleansing.”
LeBlanc said her daughter kept detailed notes of every classroom lecture and as she read the transcripts she became disturbed.
“Really,” she asked. “They can’t call the Holocaust Genocide? I was more upset with that than the lessons on Islam. It made me sick.”
And then came the comparison between the 9-11 hijackers and the freedom fighters.
Madelyn said a young man sitting beside her was stunned.
“He was shocked that we had to call them that,” she told Fox News. “He laughed and asked the teacher, ‘Is that a joke? Are you serious? Why do we have to call them that? That makes it sound okay (what they did) And it’s not.’”
Madelyn said the teacher didn’t know how to respond.
“She said it was something we have to learn for the end of the year testing,” she said. “I’m sure it was very difficult for her to do.”
Madelyn said the lesson about freedom fighters made her feel “terrible.”
“That made it sound like what they were doing was okay,” she said.
The superintendent also defended the lesson on freedom fighters.
“The whole idea behind this particular lesson – do you call yourself a freedom fighter or Islamic jihadist – or whatever it is you want to be called – you’ve got to put things in perspective,” the superintendent said. “We’re trying to teach the kids to discern for themselves that one thing can be called many different things.”
Valastro said it’s important for students to understand context.
“We might see it as terrorism, but from the Islamic side they might call it jihadist or freedom fighter,” he said.
The superintendent said he was not aware of the specific comments made about the 9-11 hijackers – but conceded there was only one side to the attack.
“I do agree it was a terrorist attack,” he said. “But in several classes across this country, you’re going to have a make-up of students from all over the world in your class. We teach it as an act of terrorism – whereas they are teaching it to their kids as a revolutionary event.”
LeBlanc said she was especially bothered by the lack of emphasis on other religions. She said there were hardly any lessons on Judaism and none on Christianity.
“I wondered how it was okay for them to go so in-depth into a religion from the other side of the world but it was not okay for them to be like that with Christianity,” she said.
“I try to stay open-minded,” she said. “I don’t want my daughter to be ignorant about the world. My kids watch the news with us. We make them aware. I don’t even mind the high school teaching these things.”
But, she added, there was no balance.
“They can talk about how important Mecca is – but why aren’t they talking about how important Christianity was to the founding of the nation,” she asked.
LeBlanc and other parents said they feel betrayed.
“We trusted these people,” she said of the school system. “It scares me. I feel like our school is being infiltrated. How can this not be a sign? We’re talking about Lumberton, Texas. We’re talking about a small town with Christian churches on every street corner. Right in our small school this is going on.”