published Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Tennessee school district halts field trips to religious sites

GALLATIN, Tenn. — A Tennessee school district has halted field trips to religious venues after the parent of a student accused the school of promoting Islam.

Sumner County Schools spokesman Jeremy Johnson told The Tennessean the complaint came from the stepfather of a Henderson High School student.

Parent Mike Conner said the issue surfaced when a couple of parents asked about a planned field trip to a mosque and a Hindu temple during the school's back-to-school night. Conner said parents raised concerns about the trip because the 36-week world studies course was only going to be visiting the two religious venues.

For the past 10 years, Hendersonville High School has offered an honors world studies class in which students spend three weeks learning about Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hindu and Islam.

The school system said last week that all trips to religious venues are off.

Kelly Fussman, a 2012 graduate of Hendersonville High School, took the world studies class during the 2008-09 school year.

"The world studies class was really the one and only class that allowed for such an open dialogue of faith and religion," she said.

Fussman said Amanda Elmore, who teaches the class, was the first teacher she had who made her think critically about the world.

"Without her pushing the limits, I wouldn't be so open to new cultures," Fussman said.

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