Virginia’s Department of Education hosted a speaker who instructed teachers to exclude the role Muslim extremism played when teaching students about 9/11.
In a PowerPoint delivered by “Education Leadership scholar” Amaarah DeCuir, teachers were instructed to avoid using language that could pin the events of 9/11 on Muslim extremism. The lecturer pointed to the heightened anti-Muslim sentiment that allegedly ticks up around the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
“School and classroom 9/11 commemorations are sites for increased anti-Muslim racism,” the presentation reads. “This year’s 20th anniversary commemorations will likely result in heightened risks of racist discourse, threats, and violence targeting Muslim students in schools and society. Educators are well-positioned to disrupt these risks by centering the socio-emotional needs of Muslims in their commemoration plans.”
DeCuir created a list of teaching standards that are “in” and “out,” according to her viewpoints. Teaching standards that are “in” include “acknowledgment of anti-Muslim racism.” Teaching standards that are “out” include the “false assumption of Muslim responsibility for 9/11” and “American exceptionalism.”
The presentation also listed examples of “harmful teaching” on 9/11. Examples included “creating a tense classroom environment,” “reducing 9/11 instruction to death counts and fear mongering,” “assumptions of emotional distance,” “teaching about Islam and/or Muslims,” “amplifying the extremists and extremist acts of 9/11,” “demanding the condemnation of 9/11,” “failing to respond to anti-Muslim racism,” and “reproducing a single, American narrative that marginalizes other students.”
According to her biography from American University, DeCuir is an education scholar who “focuses on the intersections of leadership, gender, and diverse cultural contexts to advance social justice.” In a tweet about the event, she called on “antiracist” educators to join and “disrupt” the current education of 9/11.
She has previously thanked the Michigan-based Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), a Muslim interest group that was endorsed by Michigan’s progressive Rep. Rashida Tlaib, for supporting her work.
“My work would not be possible without the amazing research from [ISPU]! Thank you for your support,” DeCuir once tweeted.
Tlaib endorsed the organization for its “profound” work as well.
“ISPU’s work is very profound. There’s so much truth in what they do — even making our community put a mirror up and saying this is what’s going on. I think that’s critically important,” Tlaib said.
Virginia State Senator Steve Newman condemned the presentation and called on educators state-wide to teach “the facts.”
“I lived through 9/11 … This one event was due to Muslim extremists and their actions, the desire of these individuals to kill as many Americans as possible at one time. Why do we need to change history, again? Just tell the facts,” Newman said. “We have a responsibility to our children today to ensure they know the awful truth about the events of that day, and the evil intent behind the terrorists … We must teach the next generation the truth about our history.”
The comments made by the Virginia Department of Education mirror the comments of Minnesota’s Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who once dubbed the tragedies of 9/11 as “some people [that] did something.”
A spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Education said that the views expressed by DeCuir do not represent the views of the state’s Education Department.
“This webinar was part of a series intended to help teacher create welcoming and affirming classrooms for all students and in this specific case to provide support to Muslim students, who may be subject to bullying around the anniversary of 9/11,” spokesman Ken Blackstone said. “As stated in the presentation, the speaker made it clear that her views and opinions do not reflect the views and opinions of the VDOE. As such, any statements made in the webinar re not to be attributed to the Virginia Department of Education.”
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This article has been updated to include a statement from the Virginia Department of Education.