HOUSTON (FOX 26) - The group that protested the opening of the Arabic Immersion Magnet School in August came back Friday to accuse HISD of hiring teachers with ulterior motives.
“Instead of hiring American citizens that need jobs because they want to do an Arabic school, now…the taxpayers are supposed to help support the need for teachers that could be coming from countries that could mean to do us harm,” said Elizabeth Theiss, the founder of Stop the Magnet.
In a press release, the group wrote the Arabic-speaking teachers are here to "undermine the United States” by placing children in the crosshairs of what they call "civilizational jihad."
While the group has not actually spoken with parents or students or staff here, the group says it's suspicious some of the teachers come from Middle-Eastern countries that have terrorist activity..
“Why is it they insist that all of the teachers, those that have access to the kids, all must speak Arabic?” said Theiss of the Arabic Immersion Magnet School. “That's what I'm saying. There's just something going on.”
But school supporters said this is fear-mongering at its worst, similar to refugee resettlement arguments, with flimsy evidence of what they are accusing HISD of.
“This is about racism, and xenophobia and fear. They're not used to Arabs and Muslims who they're conglomerating. Houston, as in most of the United States -- most of our Arabic population are not Muslim. They're actually Christian. Most of our Muslims are South Asian, and that just demonstrates the lack of knowledge,” said Benjamin Franklin, the founder of Solidarity Houston.
Some parents of the kids here say they believe the protestors are misinformed since they haven't actually seen what is taught inside the school, and that they think the school is beneficial.
“She's fantastic. I mean, the Arabic one is fantastic. She can handle the kids as good as any teacher I've ever seen,” said Anan Qaddumi, a parent of a 4-year-old who attends the school.
Houston ISD has responded with the following statement:
Research shows that students who learn a foreign language become better learners and thinkers. Learning a new language improves their analytical skills and enhances their memory and creativity, which helps them to do better academically. More importantly, learning a foreign language helps students gain a more profound understanding of their own culture and develop a more positive attitude toward other cultures.
As one of the world’s leading energy capitals, Houston has strong economic ties to the Middle East. Additionally, Arabic is the second-most common foreign language spoken at home in HISD. Those factors combine to create a significant demand for Arabic language fluency. We aim to help meet that demand with the Arabic Immersion Magnet School.