The Loudoun County School Board is reaching the denouement of a multiyear deliberation about an application for a charter school that has strong ties to Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish Islamist. His followers have already started some 135 American charter schools. Their focus is to promote an increasingly Shariah-dominated Turkey.
Incredibly, the school board’s members are studiously avoiding any acknowledgment or discussion of the role of Fethullah Gulen and his movement in the charter school. They have wrestled for many months with a host of problems with the application — such as serious deficiencies with the proposed curriculum, the financing, the management, the teachers and Maryland’s Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School, the school in Anne Arundel County specifically cited as the “model” for the Loudoun Math and Information Technology Academy.
Yet the members of the school board have, to date, been unwilling to recognize that these problems are actually endemic in Gulen-associated schools — including Chesapeake Science Point. These problems are also much in evidence in three Gulen charter schools in Fulton County, Ga. Two of the three have lost their charters; the third — an elementary school — may soon follow suit.
I had the occasion to visit Fulton County last week and talked with several people involved in one aspect or another of its difficulties with the Gulenists. These included a former teacher, the parent of a former student and a local administrator. One thing is clear from these conversations: You simply cannot begin to understand, let alone cope with, the sorts of issues inherent in “Gulen-inspired” schools if you indulge — for whatever reason, be it “political correctness,” sensitivity to “diversity,” fear of litigation or being branded an “Islamophobe,” racist, etc. — in the pretense that applications like the one in Loudoun County can be properly evaluated while excluding from the evaluation process the 800-pound gorilla in the room: the applicants’ manifest associations to the Gulen movement.
Fortunately, the Loudoun County School Board is expected to hear from Mary Addi on Tuesday, in the course of its last public input session on the application for the Loudoun Math and Information Technology Academy. Ms. Addi and her Turkish husband, Mustafa Emanet, both formerly taught in a Gulen school in Cleveland. They have courageously made public their insights into issues sure to afflict the Loudoun County school system if the current application is approved: systematic mismanagement; use of Turkish teachers who are unqualified to teach, do not speak English comprehensibly or both; visa fraud; financial irregularities; chronic deviation from the curriculum and other rules and regulations meant to govern its operations; and so on. These issues have affected other Gulen charter schools around the country. Ms. Addi and her husband have even contributed to an ongoing investigation of the Gulen Movement and its schools by the FBI.
In a letter previously submitted to a select committee of the Loudoun School Board that — to its credit — actually recommended rejection of the Gulen charter application, Ms. Addi wrote:
“According to my husband, in addition to garnering as much taxpayer money as possible, the Gulen movement’s other agenda is to spread Islam though subliminal indoctrinations. More specifically, the mission is to spread Islam by means of the Turkish events such as trips to Turkey, the Turkish Olympics, other cultural events and teaching Turkish as a second language.
“Although the Gulenists are careful not to speak directly about their religious beliefs, it is their hope that by indoctrinating American students and parents with their culture and hospitality, that the students will likewise be more susceptible to religious conversion.”
Such behavior would, of course, fall afoul of prohibitions in the Virginia code barring proselytization in public schools. Like the rest of the Gulen program, however, unless the application is rejected, it is predictable that Loudoun County will find itself wrestling with what other school systems have confronted elsewhere: an entrenched school, indifferent to its obligations and responsibilities — and exceedingly difficult to discipline due, in part, to the Gulenists’ intensive efforts to buy political protection from county supervisors, state legislators, governors and others.
If the mere prospect of those sorts of vexing problems were not grounds enough to reject the application, this passage from the Loudoun County School Board code of conduct should be: “I must never neglect my personal obligation to the community and my legal obligation to the State, nor surrender these responsibilities to any other person, group, or organization; but that, beyond these, I have a moral and civic obligation to the Nation which can remain strong and free only so long as public schools in the United States of America are kept free and strong.”
Keeping our public schools free and strong means keeping them out of the clutches of cultish supremacists, be they of the Turkish Islamist stripe or any other.