Thursday, May 24, 2018
Education

In Hillsborough, a voice of reason in defense of learning world's religions

School board meetings tend to be dull if necessary affairs, filled with proclamations, test score talk and the latest lineup of principals. (Stifle yawn here.)

But at a meeting of the Hillsborough County School Board this week came a Serious Moment of Truth out of an elected official who spoke up for education and showing kids what's out there in the world. You could even say she rose up righteous.

As is tradition around here, the controversy du jour was ignited by fear and misinformation and the flames fanned by our own in-house cast of moral crusaders. You know, the ones who have a direct line Upstairs. Just ask them.

Past local controversies have included what religious holidays should be days off from school and whether a display of gay-themed books belonged at a library.

This time, the subject was Muslims.

A Steinbrenner High history teacher found herself in the thick of it for inviting Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, to speak to her Advanced Placement class on assorted topics: stereotypes, human rights, women in Islam, that sort of thing. Shibly spoke with students and shook hands afterward. And apparently, we can't have that.

Actual fact: Official state curriculum calls for high school students to learn about major religions of the world. Leaving one out would be like denying the existence of a continent (Europe, maybe?) or a planet (and you know, I never really did trust Mars). The teacher had, by the way, invited speakers of other faiths, including Christianity.

None of which mattered to the likes of David Caton, ex-porn addict turned moral crusader, who made this the latest target for his Florida Family Association. The School Board was flooded with emails in protest.

At the mention of Caton, some people will ask: Why give this guy more ink to help him bolster his self-made image as Official Spokesman For All That Is Right? Fair enough. But when a small-potatoes guy like him can help pressure a chain the size of Lowe's into pulling ads from a TV show called All-American Muslim, you should know.

Citizens, activists, parents and others stepped up at this week's meeting to protest, including an 11-year-old boy who attends his classes online and told the board these were the same people who flew a plane into the twin towers.

When they were done, board chairwoman Candy Olson set some things straight. No, this was not an attempt to "indoctrinate" students as was claimed, only to give them a broader view of differing perspectives and customs that really do exist, no matter how you try to shield their eyes. (You go, Candy O.)

"Our children need to know what is going on in the world, and they need to get their information from somewhere other than the cellphone, the news or Jersey Shore," she said.

She did not say: Or from the David Catons of the world (but I will).

She also said, "I don't think that we can protect our children from the fact that there are extremists in every religion." She did not say: Maybe even really close by (but that's what I heard).

And so there it was, in the middle of a public meeting on the boring business of running a school district: a moment of sanity, and maybe even the very definition of education.

Comments
A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

The stares and whispers started on the first day of school more than two years ago, when Liv Funk and Hailey Smith silently declared their relationship in the halls of North Bend High School by holding hands.They knew coming out would be hard in the ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

CLINTON, N.Y. — In the days after her son Graham hanged himself in his dormitory room at Hamilton College, Gina Burton went about settling his affairs in a blur of efficiency, her grief tinged with a nagging sense that something did not add up.She fi...
Published: 05/24/18
Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

TAMPA — Teachers in Hillsborough County came closer on Wednesday to reaching an agreement with the school district that would give them most, but not all of the pay they expected this past year.The deal, if it happens, will end a year-long conflict t...
Published: 05/23/18
Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

NEW PORT RICHEY — The line snaked through the hallways and into the cafeteria, as the Ridgewood High faithful waited for their chance to secure a piece of the school’s 40-year history.They came by the hundreds — current and former students, staff and...
Published: 05/23/18
Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

TAMPA — The pain of the Parkland shootings Feb. 14 was fresh on the minds of Hillsborough County’s graduating seniors when about 300 of them received an assignment. Write a 250-word essay on how decades of school shootings have touched y...
Published: 05/23/18
Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

WEEKI WACHEE — A 16-year-old was arrested Tuesday on allegations that she created a fake social media post threatening to shoot students at Weeki Wachee High School, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said the 16-year-old told...
Published: 05/22/18
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18
Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school leaders call it courtesy busing, but to Lauren Hawkins it’s more a matter of life and death.More students living close to their schools in the Westchase community used the Hillsborough school district’s courtesy bus...
Published: 05/21/18
Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

A day after England’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, St. Petersburg hosted a royal celebration of its own. Among the estimated 500 graduates to receive an Eckerd College diploma at Sunday’s graduation ceremony held...
Published: 05/20/18
Updated: 05/21/18

Hooper: SEL lends a solution to the increasingly toxic world of kids

An incident recently arose between students at Jesuit High School and Academy of the Holy Names that involved allegations of cyberbullying, homophobia, misogyny and assault.It only involved a fraction of the students at two of Tampa’s most prestigiou...
Published: 05/23/18