MANSFIELD — The Mansfield school district has backed off plans for an Arabic studies program after almost 200 parents showed up with questions at a meeting at Cross Timbers Intermediate School on Monday night.
Superintendent Bob Morrison apologized for not communicating with parents and invited them to be part of developing the curriculum.
"Nothing will be taught in the classroom until the curriculum is rolled out," district spokesman Richie Escovedo said.
The Arabic studies program, funded by a five-year, $1.3 million Foreign Language Assistance Program federal grant, was to begin this semester at Cross Timbers, then spread to Davis Elementary and Howard Middle schools in the fall and to Summit High School by fall 2012.
Arabic culture was to be integrated into the curriculum in elementary and intermediate schools, then offered as a language credit in middle and high schools. Davis, Cross Timbers and Howard are feeder schools to Summit.
"Part of the grant language brings in targeted instruction that will be embedded in the classes," Escovedo explained. "Algebra comes from the Arabic world. You talk about things while you're doing your lessons. Instead of a Valentine's cake, you might make a Moroccan dessert."
Parents at Monday's meeting ranged from supportive to upset, said Willie Wimbrey, assistant principal at Cross Timbers.
"We had people who were animatedly fearful of anything to do with Islam," he said. "Others want their children exposed to everything. Others who say, We teach about Christmas, why not other religions? All cultures and major religions are taught throughout the state."
Cindy Henderson, whose son Kolton is a fifth-grader at Cross Timbers, said she isn't as upset about the content of the program as the way it was handled.
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