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Photo of Lumberton High School students wearing burqas sparks controversy

POSTED: Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 10:39am
UPDATED: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 12:54pm

Lumberton, TX (KBMT) -- The Lumberton Independent School District is taking heat from parents over a photo of five Lumberton High School girls dressed in traditional Middle Eastern robes called burqas. The photo was taken during a February 1 lesson on world culture in a 9th grade geography class.

April LeBlanc's daughter Madelyn is one of the students in the picture. Madelyn says the teacher asked for volunteers to try on the clothes, but after the photo went viral, LeBlanc says the school made the students sign an incident report highlighting the fact that no one was forced to wear the burqas.

"I was like, we need to call our moms right now," said Madelyn.

"She called me crying, she said 'Oh my gosh mom they just made me sign a statement.' She felt like it was wrong, she knew it was wrong, and I said 'March into the office, get that back and tell them I'm on my way,'" LeBlanc told 12News in an exclusive interview.

LeBlanc says the principal apologized for the handling of the situation, but she's not satisfied, saying the whole ordeal has deeply affected her daughter.

"She's 15. She didn't really know the history of a burqa. I think she regrets doing it now, because she learned about the oppression behind it, it's bothered her the way women are treated because of it."

Five calls made by 12News to Lumberton ISD asking for comment were not returned, but in a response released Monday, the district said, "The district has great teachers and supports the teachers and their individuality in methods of instructional delivery."

LeBlanc is thinking about removing Madelyn from Lumberton High School and placing her back in private school. She has also talked with an attorney about the school's methods.

LeBlanc says she and other Lumberton parents are also angry about the use of what's called the CSCOPE curriculum at the high school.

That curriculum puts an unnecessary emphasis on lessons about Islam, at the expense of the study of Christianity, according to LeBlanc. She says it is offensive that a CSCOPE lesson refers to Al-Queda terrorists as "freedom fighters".

Lumberton ISD denied that the "burqa lesson" is related in any way to CSCOPE.

12News asked Texas Board of Education member David Bradley about CSCOPE.

"It is a quasi-governmental program that was developed without any oversight, without any accountability, and we've started to discover things like a lack of emphasis of patriotism, and encouragement in the virtues of communism," Bradley said.

The chair of the State Board of Education is creating an ad hoc committee to review the CSCOPE curriculum.

Comments News Comments

I had a child graduate from this high school and can say that the teachers use great teachings methods to involve their students. Why is this so upsetting? There really are women who are forced to wear burquas in some cultures. None of these students were forced to try on these headdresses, it was a LEARNING opportunity and everyone remembers better when they see, hear and do. Learning about one of the world's major religions is education. Some Muslims ARE freedom fighters. Some are terrorists.

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