Written by, Mackenzie Ryan, FLORIDA TODAY
One Brevard School Board member believes a textbook used in many ninth-grade classrooms has a pro-Islamic bias, but the board chair said the book was properly vetted before Brevard Schools adopted it. A third board member wants more information.
On Tuesday, the school board will hear a presentation from district staff and discuss the Prentice Hall World History textbook, which a state lawmaker and two citizens groups expressed concern about at the last school board meeting, prompting some board members to conduct their own review of the book.
House Rep. Ritch Workman said the textbook slants history by focusing a chapter on Muslim civilization, while Christianity and Judaism are mentioned throughout the book but neither has its own chapter, among other concerns.
What remains unclear is whether there’s enough support on the school board to make changes. On Friday, School Board memberAndy Ziegler said he believes action is needed.
“I believe the chapter needs to be scrutinized and possibly replaced with something more accurate and more balanced,” he said.
The issue gained national attention after FLORIDA TODAY’s story was discussed by “Fox & Friends” and “The Sean Hannity Show.”
“I’ve never seen a reaction like this,” said Boca Raton resident William Saxton, chairman of the Citizens for National Security.
Saxton spoke at the last school board meeting, joining Workman and individuals from the Space Coast chapter of ACT! for America in expressing concerns.
“Everyone is looking for Brevard to step up and take some kind of action on this,” Saxton said. “It has national implementations. I think it’s enormous. It’s all over the country. I think that’s good, actually.”
While the book is used in many ninth-grade classrooms, teachers point out that it’s only one resource. The role of Christianity and Judaism is also taught, but more focus is given to those religions during sixth-grade world history.
Board member Amy Kneessy said she requested Tuesday’s presentation. She questioned the portrayal of certain events in the book, but is still studying the issue.
“I need to know what our options are,” she said. “I want to hear what the staff has to say. I want to hear what the other board members have to say. I have concerns.”
Other officials do not. “I have confidence that the books that we select are highly reviewed and critiqued before they even get to the point where they are on our adoption list,” said board chair Barbara Murray.
A spokeswoman for the publisher, Pearson, has said the company stands behind the text. “A review of the book shows there is balanced attention given to the beliefs of Islam, Judaism and Christianity,” the company said.
The presentation is expected to be part of the “Staff Reports” section of the meeting, which is near the end of the agenda.
“It’s our opportunity to respond back to Mr. Workman’s claims, something that we were not able to do at the last board meeting because he left,” School District spokeswoman Michelle Irwin said. “We want people to hear the balanced side of the discussion.”
Ryan is at 242-3664 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Mackenzie_Ryan or at Facebook.