Polygamy and school dress codes? This assignment confuses me, too.

Is discussion of burqas and polgamy appropriate for a middle school assignment on dress codes? (AP Images)

Is discussion of burqas and polygamy appropriate for a middle school assignment on dress codes? (AP Images)

Several of you sent me e-mails asking that we discuss the father in Cobb who complained that a middle school assignment promoted the Muslim faith and polygamy without balance or context. The story was reported by WSB-TV/Channel 2’s Tom Regan.

The materials were part of a larger assignment on the benefits and detriments of the school’s  dress code, according to WSB. When I make classroom presentations on writing editorials, I often ask students to debate school dress codes. It’s a topic that resonates with them, and I give them supporting materials on both sides of the question. But I have never handed out anything that referenced burqas or polygamy.

Cobb says the lesson came from the state, so I will ask DOE for clarification once I return to work tomorrow. I think there must be some missing details here.

According to WSB:

The assignment went home with seventh-graders at Campbell Middle School. The school told Regan the assignment was used to compare the pros and cons of the school’s dress policy. But one parent said he thinks the material shows bias toward Islam and is completely inappropriate for the kids.

“Trying to relate this to school uniforms, the context they put it into, doesn’t make much sense to me,” parent Hal Medlin said.

Medlin showed Regan the assignment brought home by his 13-year-old daughter. The assignment consisted of a letter from Ahlima, a 20-year-old Muslim woman, and touts the advantage of a wearing a burqa and finds the way western women dress to be “horribly immodest,” according to the assignment.

The assignment shows Ahlima saying she doesn’t mind if her future husband takes more wives. “I understand that some Westerners condemn our practice of polygamy, but I also know they are wrong,” the assignment said.

“It’s promoting or positively depicting their belief that polygamy is fine, if that’s what they believe. But I don’t know how you could possibly state that and not have any kind of disclaimer that this is what these people think, but not necessarily what all of us believe,” Medlin said.

Another page of the assignment lists the seven conditions for women’s dress in Islam, including:

-It cannot resemble the clothing of non-believing women

-It must protect women from the lustful gaze of men

“It represents Islam in a positive manner. That doesn’t offend me as much as the fact that it represents no other religions,” Medlin said. “To me, this material is being used the way it’s used is like tearing a page out of text book and saying here’s the whole story.”

On Friday afternoon, Regan got an email statement from a Cobb Schools saying the school district didn’t create the materials, they were provided by the state. The representative went on to say, “The district will review the material in question and determine if it can be taught in a more balance way or if it should no longer be used.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

22 comments Add your comment

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

September 27th, 2011
3:48 am

Parents will- and should- complain so long as there are public schools.

As discretion is the better part of valor, so often a reflective silence is the better part of the parental right to complain.

Very Passionate About Our Schools

September 27th, 2011
4:28 am

This has nothing to do with dress codes in my humble opinion. If uniforms are required and a muslim student shows up dressed this way, you know the schools won’t do anything about it. I agree with this father, that has nothing to do with learning and I would be upset also.

Dunwoody Mom

September 27th, 2011
6:49 am

My guess if this was about “Christian” dress, ala “The Duggars” , no one would object to the assignment, right?


September 27th, 2011
7:07 am

Dunwoody mom–LOL!


September 27th, 2011
7:28 am

Our Social Studies standards are crazy. Who writes this stuff? My public school 6th grader is memorizing the countries and capitals of Europe (51 of ‘em!) along with land formations, but has never had to memorize the 50 states’ locations and only memorized the state capitals because she had an elementary teacher who felt like it was important. The 6th grade teacher never bothered to pronounce the countries or cities so my child has been mispronouncing about half of them. Sheesh. Oh, that’s right, pronunciation and true comprehesion isn’t on the CRCT so it isn’t really all that important.


September 27th, 2011
7:34 am

So will his daughter need disclaimers to go along with all the reading she’s assigned?

“Cobb County does not endorse forcing women to wear scarlet letters.”

Does the assignment feel forced? Yes. Still, just shut up and move on.

Joy in Teaching

September 27th, 2011
8:00 am

I personally think this is an awesome lesson. The rest of the world doesn’t revolve around the practices and beliefs of individual families. Children need to understand this and their parents should as well. Is it really necessary to put disclaimers on everything? Or is this REALLY what the United States has come to after McDonald’s was forced to put “Coffee is hot” on their coffee cups?


September 27th, 2011
8:37 am

When will parents stop thinking that their children take everything they see to heart?

I’m sure Medlin’s kid read that assignment and said “OH THAT SOUNDS LIKE A GOOD IDEA LET ME CONVERT TO ISLAM!”

That seems logical.

Concerned DeKalb Mom

September 27th, 2011
8:55 am

Or…and here’s an outrageous thought…this sort of assignment could promote some high level conversation at home. Interesting to know if those protesting the assignment spoke with their kids about any issues surrounding it? They are 13, after all, not 6, so I’d consider the topics appropriate conversation.


September 27th, 2011
9:05 am

@Joy in Teaching: I agree with the core of what you say, but I suggest you watch this movie: http://hotcoffeethemovie.com/

[...] is a storm brewing over the polygamy/Islam component of a Georgia social studies script that I wrote about earlier today. I have sent DOE an e-mail asking for a statement because the controversy, which began with one [...]

Maureen Downey

September 27th, 2011
9:57 am

@student, The lesson would not bother me as a parent, and I have two middle schoolers. I have read it and, while it does present polygamy in a positive light, I think adolescents can and will raise questions about the writer’s point of view.

People: Let Go

September 27th, 2011
10:17 am

Relax, we live in a global society. We must embrace diversity in all its forms. If the USA is to remain preeminent power we cannot do so by being narrow minded.

We frown on cultures that mandate its citizens follow what we feel are antiquated, barbaric codes (such as, dress – e.g. women must wear a veil at all times). We as American citizens would stand for such, yet her we are attempting to do just that.
Hippocratic ?

Fully versed

September 27th, 2011
10:41 am

To the naive and likely progressive/liberal parents who equate this lesson with something from the Duggars or an American polygamist family, well, you’re just missing about ninety percent of the picture. This is about special treatment of Muslims. This is about encroachment of the Shari’a into our society, and propagandizing to our children without their parents’ knowledge through our public school system. In case you didn’t notice, we’re in a war, and the war is happening in our own country as well as overseas. Radical and even some not-so-radical components of the world’s major religion, which by their own admission is NOT compatible with the Constitution or secular bent of the United States and the western world, are trying to expand. The tenets of Islam are convert the infidels, take over their institutions, USE the constitution against us. Making inroads starts small, with a lesson extolling the virtues of the veil, the husband “taking care of” the wives, the “safety” of the lifestyle, YET it does not mention the canings, the stonings and the misogeny of the culture. This is pure propaganda, served up to whitewash the culture and the religion. Praising Allah in the lesson…great. If it did so with Jesus or any other major religion, you progressives would be ALL OVER THIS!!! Embracing diversity is not the same as simply hiding your head to ALL of the tenets of this violent religion. Special treatment of this religion in our schools should NOT be tolerated. This lesson had not much to do with culture, and everything to do with religion, and parents should have the right to be upset.


September 27th, 2011
12:49 pm

This sounds like a critical thinking assignment to me. It appears to be meant to provoke open discourse. God forbid we promote critical thinking and cultural discussion. However I will concede that this specific topic may have been more appropriate in high school instead of middle school where it most likely solicited giggles and confusion from the students.

[...] is a storm brewing over the polygamy/Islam component of a Georgia social studies script that I wrote about earlier today. I have sent DOE an e-mail asking for a statement because the controversy, which began with one [...]

Teacher Reader

September 27th, 2011
2:45 pm

As a former teacher, the problem that I have with this lesson, is that our children do not really understand or are taught about the country that they live in. Yes, we live in a global society, but to truly understand other societies and government types, a child/citizen must have an in depth understanding of the country, it’s beginning, and it’s laws. Our children do not have that. They do not know the names of the fifty states, their capitals, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, how our government works, and so on, so they cannot fully understand other governments and ways of life.

Before introducing our children to Europe, Islam, and other ways of thinking, our children need a foundation in what makes America America. Our children are only being taught mistruths about America, Europe, and Islam. Until this changes our children will always be behind, as they have no strong foundation of learning and understanding.

Our middle school children have their minds growing and are easily swayed by assignments like this that leave many facts that would make students think differently.

Good Mother

September 27th, 2011
4:58 pm

I saw this story on the news. In it the Muslim girl says she wants to dress the way she does and so on as if she speaks for all Muslim women.

Not all Muslim women want to dress in the head to toe garb. This type of dress is forced upon them. The so -called lesson also says the dress prevents rape. We all know that isn’t true.

I think the father has a right to complain and I wouldn’t let my child read it either. A woman’s rape is not brought on by what she wears. Rape by a man is in the man’s head, not in the woman’s clothing. The message this so-called lesson teaches is that if a woman is raped it is her own fault because she wasn’t dressed modestly and that is absolutely ridiculous and dangerous.

Whoever wrote the so-called lesson obviously has an agenda and a bad one. This so-called lesson should be banned from every school.


September 27th, 2011
9:57 pm

Disclaimers? Really? Then again there is that warning on take-away cups from McDonald’s that says “Warning: Contents May Be Hot.” So yes, a disclaimer should be in bold at the top: YOU DON’T HAVE TO HAVE THE SAME OPINION.
(I suppose common sense isn’t so “common”)

[...] is a charge brewing over a polygamy/Islam member of a Georgia amicable studies book that we wrote about progressing today. we have sent DOE an e-mail seeking for a matter since a controversy, that began with one [...]

another comment

September 28th, 2011
1:53 am

I love the hypocracy of seing the muslim teen girls out with their head gear veils and skin tight jeans. That doen’t quit meet the tenants of the Religion. Yet they get to break the school dress code. It is ridiculous!

Then try the Muslim Turks at the Concourse Club that let their son’s terrorize all the other swimmers by sitting on the lane ropes. When you tell these little terrorists to get off the ropes, they tell you it is not on the sign rules. There mothers in bathing suits, pretend not to speak english. lol.

Sarah Caldwell

September 28th, 2011
10:52 am

Many of these comments have merit, but the poor spelling and ignorance shown in them does not support giving parents or “ordinary citizens” a voice in the education of the young in our community. Aside from noting that Hippocratic is an oath that medical professionals take (People:Let Go), I’ll limit myself to the errors in the comment beginning “I love…”

“hypocracy”–misspelled word
“muslim teen girls”–failure to capitalize a proper noun
“That don’t quit meet the tenants of the Religion.” –4 errors: sentence fragment, misspelled word, homonym used erroneously (”tenants” for “tenets”), capitalization of a common noun
“their son’s terrorize”–misuse of an apostrophe to indicate a plural form
“There mothers in bathing suits, pretend not to speak english.” –3 errors: homonym used erroneously (”There” for “Their”), comma splice, failure to capitalize proper noun