Minneha Core Knowledge Magnet Elementary School in Wichita had planned to teach students about various world religions during the new school year, and created a generic display on “The Five Pillars of Islam” as part of the study, along with other religious boards. A separate display in another part of the school depicted the Last Supper in an effort to outline the religious inspiration behind the artwork of the Renaissance Period.
However, when students returned to school this month, and parents saw the “Pillars of Islam” board on the walls near the Fourth Grade classrooms, some became uncomfortable. One parent photographed the bulletin board and shared it on Facebook, where it began to spread.
“Students at Minneha Core Knowledge Elementary School in Wichita, Kansas were met with this their first day of school,” the Facebook page Prepare to Take America Back read. “This cannot stand.”
However, the school district released a statement this past week outlining that the bulletin board was by no means a promotion of Islam.
“Minneha Core Knowledge Magnet students cover the five major religions of the world – Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam – as part of their Core Knowledge magnet curriculum,” it explained. “The students study civilizations throughout time, throughout the world, and cover religion with a focus on the history and geography in the development of civilizations.”
The district said that it was wrong for conservative blog sites to isolate the bulletin board, rather than note that it was one board among several that depicted various major world religions.
“[Posting a photo] of a bulletin board without context is misleading,” officials stated, “and some have taken it out of context without having all the information.”
Therefore, the school has removed the controversial display to put an end to the hubbub–at least for now.
“Because of the misunderstanding … the bulletin board has been taken down until the unit is taught later this fall,” the district explained.
However, some state that Minneha Core Knowledge Magnet Elementary School should have left the bulletin board in place despite complaints.
“Minneha Core Knowledge Elementary School is doing exactly what public schools are supposed to be doing in teaching about Islam, Christianity and other faiths in ways that are constitutionally and academically sound,” wrote Charles Haynes of the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center. “But for now, the suddenly empty space on the bulletin board sends a chilling message to students, parents, and teachers at Minneha and other public schools: Study about religions in a public school – no matter how fair and objective – can get you into trouble.”
Still, others said that they were glad that the display was taken down as it could be a distraction to the learning environment.
“I think removing the bulletin board display was the diplomatically and constructively correct thing to do. It should be rotated with other displays at appropriate times as they are relevant to the curriculum and lesson plans,” said a local resident. “I don’t think any of the administrative/support staff, faculty or parents of students want to see the school become a political battleground for conflicting ideologies. That would be a much more serious distraction than any poster or painting.”