Second-graders in NJ school given health and hygiene worksheet with Islamic slant

Second-graders in NJ school given health and hygiene worksheet with Islamic slant
Image: Chris Sharpe via the Asbury Park Press

The teacher’s story, if you’re willing to buy it, is that it was an innocent mistake — that she had downloaded the worksheet in haste and failed to notice the references to hijabs and thawbs (an ankle-length robe-like garment worn by Muslim men). She also read right past the quote from the Quran advising that “Allah loves those who make themselves clean and pure.”

The Asbury Park Press notes that Chris Sharpe, the father of one of the recipients of the worksheet at the Cecil S. Collins School in the town of Barnegat, was taken aback when he skimmed the assignment.

At first, Sharpe said he feared the school was indoctrinating his daughter. Other parents were equally alarmed, he said.

“Everybody was up in arms,” Sharpe said.

On Wednesday morning, Sharpe said Barnegat school officials apologized to parents and explained that it was a simple mistake of a teacher quickly downloading health worksheets online and not carefully reviewing their content.

The question that occurs to me is how one accidentally downloads health materials with a religious angle. I’m not a teacher, but I have visited sites that compile educational resources, and most of them are pretty straightforward. I would think that you’d need to include Islam or Muslim as one of the search criteria to find a site that offers worksheets like this one.

Also since most public schools subscribe to the so-called “establishment clause” of the Constitution, aren’t teachers attuned to avoiding any and all references to any religion when selecting teaching materials?

Since the article withholds the teacher’s name, there’s no way of finding out.

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles is a freelance writer.


Commenting Policy

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse.

You may use HTML in your comments. Feel free to review the full list of allowed HTML here.