A middle school in Ohio has given parents the option to pull their children from a lesson on Islamic studies, the school's superintendent told BuzzFeed News on Thursday.
The decision at Wapakoneta Middle School comes in the wake of a growing number of anti-Muslim incidents reported in the U.S. after the Paris attacks.
Keith Horner, the school's superintendent, defended the decision, saying that "some curriculum topics are sensitive." The Islamic religion lesson for seventh graders was not a class, but a "small part" of the state social studies curriculum, he said.
The Ohio Social Studies curriculum for the seventh grade teaches students about the "achievements in medicine, science, mathematics and geography by the Islamic civilization that dominated most of the Mediterranean after the decline of the Roman Empire." The curriculum also teaches students how these Islamic achievements were introduced into Western Europe and influenced the European Renaissance.
"The Wapakoneta City Schools are supportive of the very minimal standards that are expected to be taught with respect to the Islamic religion," Horner said in his statement. "We do not recommend that students opt out. We do, however, recognize that some curriculum topics are sensitive and we work with our parents to work through these respective issues."
News of the decision was first reported by Your News Now. The school board and staff members did not respond to attempts by BuzzFeed News to identify the teacher or comment on the decision.
Todd Crowe, one of the seventh grade social studies teachers, told BuzzFeed News, "It is not my class opting out of learning about Islam."
Wapakoneta Mayor Rodney Metz told BuzzFeed News on Friday he disapproved of the school's decision.
"I don't know why we would want to limit our youth and young adults in their capabilities of learning other cultures," Metz said. "If you're going to teach history, you need to teach all the history. Why would you want to censor what you teach and don't teach?"
Metz did not know how many Muslims lived in Wapakoneta, but he said he believes there are "some Islamic couples in town." No one has come to him with concerns of anti-Muslim sentiment in the city, he added.
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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