A group critical of a Wellesley Middle School field trip to a Roxbury mosque that took place last May is circulating a video posted on YouTube that it says shows several of the boys taking part in a Muslim prayer exercise. The Americans for Peace for Tolerance’s press release resulted in a swift apology from Wellesley School Superintendent Bella Wong for some students being allowed to do more than visit and observe.
The APT wrote that: “In a May 2010 visit, the students were presented with Islamist propaganda, which falsified history by minimizing oppression of women in the Muslim world and whitewashing the role of Jihad and conquest in Islamic territorial expansion.” APT has claimed the mosque is backed by an extremist organization.
Wong explained that students visited the mosque as part of a social studies course called “Enduring Beliefs and the World Today” that explores Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. The course includes a visit to a synagogue as well as the mosque. Students only take part with parental permission, and parents are invited to take part as well to serve as chaperones. Apparently one parent took a video showing five students “imitating the act of prayer”, as Wong put it, and it wound up in the hands of APT.
Wong apologizes in her letter to parents: “It was not the intent for students to be able to participate in any of the religious practices. The fact that any students were allowed to do so in this case was an error. I extend my sincere apologies for the error that occurred and regret the offense if may have caused.”
She says teachers will be given clearer guidance in the future as to what students are allowed to do. Wong did not say that the field trip will be discontinued and made no mention of any disciplinary action. Though Wellesley officials conceded that separation of school vs. state issues did arise as a result of some students taking part in a prayer.
As you might expect, this story is taking on a life of its own online, having been initially reported on the Jewish Advocate and now proliferating across many an angry blog.
TV news stations swarmed Wellesley Middle School Thursday night, with at least 3-4 of them lining Kingsbury Street right in the middle of open school night (in other words, lots of parents to interview).