Parents of students in a New Jersey middle school are furious that a teacher skipped a 9/11 anniversary discussion and opted to read a fictional story about a Muslim boy named “Osama” instead.
On the anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks masterminded by Osama bin Laden, a social studies teacher at Glen Meadow Middle School in Vernon Township decided not to have students discuss the day of mourning honoring the thousands killed, the New Jersey Herald reported.
Instead, the teacher presented a lesson on a story titled, “My Name Is Osama,” about a fictional Muslim boy who is bullied because his name is Osama.
“I thought it was a joke at first,” Ed O’Rourke, a parent who pulled his sixth-grade daughter from the class, told the Herald. “I couldn’t believe it.”
According to the Herald:
The story that the teacher had her students read, titled “My Name is Osama,” tells a made-up account of an Iraqi immigrant boy named Osama who faces taunts of “terrorist” in school by several students who tell him his mother, who wears a hijab, has “a bag on her head.” After pushing back against his tormenters, the boy is suspended from school for fighting.
The story included no mention of the ideology behind those who carried out the 9/11 attacks, which O’Rourke said should have been a part of the class discussion as well.
“It would be like, on a day about the Holocaust, doing a made-up lesson about a boy named Adolf being bullied by Jewish kids and saying we shouldn’t blame all Germans — or don’t pick on the poor kid named Adolf on the Jewish holidays,” O’Rourke, a former Marine, said. “It’s grotesque.”
The parents met with Principal Edwina Piszczek and acting Superintendent Charles McKay on Wednesday after O’Rourke contacted school officials.
“They couldn’t have been better as far as letting me vent, and agreed that the timing couldn’t have been more horrific,” O’Rourke told the Herald. “They said they were unaware the teacher was planning to do this and that it fell through the cracks, though when I asked if they were planning any disciplinary action against the teacher, they said they weren’t sure at this point.”
“I met with our teacher this morning to relay those concerns, and then I met with the father to make sure his point of view was heard,” McKay said in a statement, noting that each meeting “was civil and instructive.”
While O’Rourke understands about teaching children tolerance, he said that should be done within the right context.
“I know a lot of firemen and cops who lost family members on 9/11, but unlike the religious extremists who would have no problem blowing all of us up, our society is not going out blaming all Muslims,” he said.
“But there’s also an ideology of people that causes some people to want to kill us and to not respect women’s rights, and that should be taught as well. Instead this teacher was able to influence an entire class with a tainted story made up to show Muslims as victims,” he added.
The New Jersey Herald noted that there is no official 9/11 curriculum and lessons are “left to the discretion of local school districts.”
“However, New Jersey’s social studies standards call for terrorism and its effects to be taught in an age-appropriate manner starting in elementary school,” the publication added.
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