Outrage over lesson on Islam causes school closure in Virginia, but teacher finds support

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. — A Virginia teacher under fire for a geography assignment is now being lifted up by her community.

The teacher asked students to copy the Islamic statement of faith to experience the artistic complexity of calligraphy, but backlash from the assignment forced the closure of an entire school district.

But while many are upset, not everyone is. More than 3,000 people have turned to Facebook and taken to the streets to support the teacher.

A group gathered Friday afternoon to show their support for Riverheads High School teacher Cheryl LaPorte.

“I feel terrible for what she’s probably going through right now, I’m sure she can’t leave her house and feels the hate personally,” said Jennifer Lewis, who organized the event. “I just want to tell her that we all love her, we all support her.”

This comes after some in the community, like parent Kimberly Herndon, were outraged over this assignment, asking students to copy the Islamic statement of faith for a world geography class.

The statement translated to: “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

Herndon said she didn’t want a false doctrine spoken in schools.

“In the Christian faith, if you denounce your god, that’s an abomination.”

Other parents at a forum called for LaPorte’s termination. In response, Augusta County Superintendent Eric Bond said in a news release that when students learn about a geographic region, they also study its religion and language.

Lewis said with all this negativity, she wants to show love, especially this time of year.

“We want to show her that we support her, her job,” she said. “I mean this was her job, she was just doing what the state requires her to do which is to teach kids, educate our kids.”

Lewis said this isn’t the Augusta County she knows.

“I just hope that people will look at Augusta County as more than just this situation and see us for the welcoming, loving community that we really are.”

The school’s superintendent said a different nonreligious sample of Arabic calligraphy will be used in the future.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.