Charter schools pushing religion with public funds have been a continual problem all over the country, and it isn’t just Christianity. A Muslim charter school in Minnesota lost a federal lawsuit brought by the ACLU last year over Establishment Clause violations, and now Scientology is getting into the act in Florida. The Tampa Bay Times has a long and detailed report on the situation. The school is called the Life Force Arts and Technology Academy and it is currently in bankruptcy.
Though company president Hanan Islam was also executive director of the World Literacy Crusade, a California organization that promotes Scientology study methods, she had reassured parents then that her group would “not push any religion” at the school.
But as Life Force parents stood in one of Scientology’s newest churches, dedicated last year by Scientology’s worldwide leader, David Miscavige, some felt their trust had been betrayed.
Some parents and former teachers at Life Force, which receives about $800,000 a year in public funding, say the Pinellas County charter school has become a Scientology recruiting post targeting children.
Opened to serve a low-income Clearwater neighborhood and advertising classes in computers and modern dance, Life Force had begun pushing Hubbard’s “study technology,” which critics call a Trojan horse Scientology uses to infiltrate public classrooms.
And while Life Force students and teachers worked in poorly stocked classrooms and teachers went unpaid, the bankrupt school funneled tens of thousands of dollars more to Islam’s business interests than she told the bankruptcy court she would charge…
But as the 2011-2012 school year began for about 95 students in August, Islam and other Life Force administrators began insisting on the use of Hubbard’s “study tech” in the classroom, former teachers said.
Every teacher was given Learning How to Learn, an illustrated children’s book and starter’s guide to study tech that includes a biography of Hubbard. Teachers also were trained in Smart Way, a phonics program designed by Scientologists.
One teacher took photos of white boxes stacked in the principal’s office labeled “L. Ron Hubbard Books.”
Teachers were required to attend training sessions at Scientology’s flagship resort in downtown Clearwater, the Fort Harrison Hotel.
Islam posted pictures online with a caption saying teachers were “trained on the barriers to study,” a Hubbard study tech fundamental. Teachers were taught extensively about one study tech solution, “word clearing,” in which fatigued or frustrated students must trace back their problem to a “misunderstood word.”
Though teachers believed their students’ struggles often stemmed from broken homes or social problems in their neighborhood, they were taught to point troubled students to a dictionary.
“The only reason a person gives up a study or becomes confused,” Learning How to Learn states, “is because he has gone past a word that was not understood.”
Teachers who questioned study tech were told they had no choice but to implement it. Fifth-grade teacher Jason Lowe, who was fired in January, said Life Force director of operations Vikki Williams told him, ” ‘We are a study tech school,’ and that if any of us had a problem with it, we had to get over it.”
And I’m sure it will surprise no one to find out that the leader of the school appears to be a fraud:
Seeking a savior, the Life Force board signed a contract with Islam’s Art of Management company. In a court declaration, Islam boasted of being a “dynamic leader” who was skilled at winning government contracts and had tripled the World Literacy Crusade’s annual income.
Calling herself “Dr. Hanan,” Islam also said she was a naturopathic physician with two doctorates and a master’s degree from Rochville University and the Eden Institute. Rochville is an online school the Washington Post called “a diploma mill.” No university named “Eden Institute” could be found by the Times.
Though she touted her successes as executive director of the World Literacy Crusade beginning in 1998, the organization has had its troubles. Tax records show the Crusade’s 2007 revenues of more than $270,000 had been cut in half by 2010.
And in 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported, 100 protesters marched outside the Crusade’s Compton, Calif., headquarters, claiming the group had sold free government-issued Section 8 housing vouchers for $1,500 each — vouchers that turned out to be phony.
Her group also has ties to the Nation of Islam, apparently. Time to shut down this place.
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