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Controversial assignment draws backlash from suburban students, parents

LOCKPORT, Ill. -- A controversial assignment at suburban high school drew backlash from students and parents.

A longtime Honors English teacher at Lockport High School has apologized for the assignment, which many described as anti-Muslim.

Last Thursday, the teacher tried to put the lessons of “The Crucible” into modern day terms.  The 1953 Arthur Miller play focuses on the Salem Witch trials. The teacher’s assignment was aimed at sparking a class discussion on the dangers of singling out a group of people.

But the district started receiving complaints late Thursday and into Friday and took swift action.

“The complaints we heard were that it was anti-Muslim and that the assignment itself was anti-Muslim,” district spokesperson Kim Brehm said.

The complaints from students and parents were not just about the assignment but also the name chosen for the fictitious Muslim, “Ali Jahd Barak.” The assignment focused on Barak, who seemed suspicious to his suburban neighbor, and the neighbor was deciding if Barack should be reported.

Students WGN News spoke with say the assignment promoted stereotypes concerning Muslims.

After deeming the assignment inappropriate it was withdrawn.  The principal then wrote an email to parents.  The district says the teacher apologized to the students in her class.