Anti-CAIR advocates disappointed in Hillsborough School Board decision to leave guest speaker policy as-is
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04/11/12 Janelle Irwin
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Terry Kemple rolled his eyes as CAIR supporters defended the Muslim faith.


photo by Janelle Irwin

Despite weeks of lobbying by anti-Muslim groups, the Hillsborough County School Board has chosen not to change the county's school policy on public speakers. Supporters of the Islamic advocacy group CAIR are declaring it a win for civil rights.

Last school year, conservative activist David Caton lashed out at the Hillsborough County School Board for allowing Hassan Shibly to speak to a group of high school history students. Shibly is the director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Caton and his followers wanted the school board to adopt a policy to ban CAIR from speaking at schools. Chaikira Parker said doing that would take away from a child’s education.

“Eliminating guest speakers would limit children’s life experience and revising this guideline after a Muslim guest speaker targets anyone else from speaking at Steinbrenner (H.S.) communicates to my Muslim daughter that she and people like her are not welcome and that this 4.0, track student, debate student, poet, novelist, has nothing to offer.”

Opponents of CAIR have said the organization promotes terrorism. After being accused of discrimination, one of them, Kathy Brown, said discrimination isn’t always a bad thing. Her reason drew laughs from the 25 or so CAIR supporters. You discriminate every morning when you chose whether to have eggs or cereal Brown said.

“But discrimination needs to be fair. And to be fair, we know that people who are terrorists or who knowingly support terrorists should not be speaking to our students in the schools. We do not need to be exposing our children to people such as Hassan Shibly, a member of CAIR, because he supports Jihad. He supports terrorism.”

And Terry Kemple, one of the loudest voices against CAIR, said he was disappointed in school board members for ignoring the hundreds of people to oppose speakers like Hassan Shibly.

“You’ve had hundreds of people show up who are concerned because representatives of an organization that has been linked to terrorism in a federal trial have been allowed into our classrooms to indoctrinate our children about the misconceptions about Muslims and about CAIR’s civil rights work.”

Chuck Lee, president of the Florida Council of Churches, admitted that he had his own prejudices - against lawyers. Hassan Shibly is a lawyer. But he said,

“My prejudice to lawyers is just as unwholesome and mindless as the prejudices that some have expressed to you concerning Islam and all the Muslim people and even CAIR.”

The decision to leave school board policy alone came without a vote. Hillsborough School’s superintendent MaryEllen Elia instead issued a memorandum that cautioned speakers of religious faiths to mind the rules regarding religious instruction in public schools. Board member April Griffin – who at a previous meeting lamented about even needing to have the conversation – said she was pleased with Elia’s action.

“We are but one community. One county. One state. One nation. One world. And the more global we become, the more apparent that becomes. People come to this nation because we offer something to them that many nations don’t offer and that’s freedom of expression; freedom of religion. We have something and we’re founded on something that no other nation in the world was founded on.”

Stacy White was the only board member who wanted something put into policy that kept advocates from speaking in schools. That was considered, but was dismissed because it could also eliminate groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and even the PTA from talking to students.






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