Three textbooks included in the Loudoun County Public School System’s 2019-2020 school year curriculum that contained passages implying a link between the Muslim religion and terrorism have been removed from consideration.
The School Board Tuesday night voted to remove the books from its list of approved resources. Those included AP World History and Geography, AP World History and World Religions, which all contain “biased and insensitive material,” according to Elissa Moritz, assistant superintendent for Instruction. The books were placed on display for public review and comment at the school system’s Administration Building in Ashburn during March and April, and quickly sparked objections from concerned parents.
Members of the community praised the board for taking swift action during its April 11 meeting.
“Thank you for choosing not to adopt those textbooks,” said Ann Raheem, a Muslim parent of a child in Loudoun schools. She suggested inviting input from the public earlier in the process moving forward. “Reach out to different interest groups before book decisions are made,” she said, adding that portraying Muslims in the ways outlined in the textbooks leads to increased bullying from both students and teachers.
Syad Ashraf, co-chairman of ADAMS Civic Engagement, was surprised that the books were on the list for consideration. He said that purchasing such textbooks would “undermine our children’s potential to be rich in diversity.”
Lamal Sayeed, a parent of two students, thanked the board for taking the public’s concerns seriously. The media does a great job of sensationalizing the issues, he said, but local leaders “should not let these toxic ideas seep into our public schools. Kids are being bullied as a result of this misinformation.”
While some are saying the book review process worked because of the end result, others are wondering whether it can be improved.
“There’s a debate about what else can be done to improve the process,” said board member Debbie Rose (Algonkian). “But I think it worked. The public was given a chance to review the books.”
Rose said that offensive passages “obviously came to light … [but] a lot of things did go right” because people brought the matter to the attention of school officials. “We go through these processes, we make changes,” she said.
Board member Tom Marshall (Leesburg) wondered if the core issue is political awareness or a problem with the process, asking questions like who on staff reviewed the books and which students would have received the books in question, had they been approved.
“Originally, that material wasn’t reviewed because that part of the book isn’t part of the curriculum,” Moritz said. “That doesn’t make it OK.”
“The reality is there is biased language in any textbook you pick up,” said board member Chris Croll (Catoctin). “It really comes down to the teacher and the classroom supporting it through the curriculum.”
“The book is not the curriculum,” said Dr. Ashley Ellis, assistant superintendent for instruction, adding that all staff members agreed with the community’s assessment that the passages were biased.
School Board member Joy Maloney (Broad Run) pointed out that when the state of Virginia reviews books, “they bring that info back to the publisher of that textbook, and I think it would be helpful to reach out to them.”
The board passed the textbook and resource adoption with plans to address the course selection for the three books prior to the start of the 2019-2020 school year. Two other textbooks were also removed from the list because they are no longer available.