According to a 140-page report released this week by the Hawaii Department of Education, an online program run by Acellus Learning Accelerator, used by public schools throughout the state, routinely included discriminatory content that was “severe, pervasive and persistent” as well as promoted religion in the schools.
When it comes to religion, here’s what the DOE found in a review of the Social Studies curriculum:
… First, the amount of non-secular content was unacceptable, in the eyes of this examiner. Of note are units on Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus: His Parables and Teachings, The Exodus, Moses and the Israelites, Abraham and the Covenant, Muhammed and the Angel Gabriel, and The Crucifixion of Jesus. These units were not contained in a course about religion, nor were these individuals/events treated in an historical context, as is customary in a public school curriculum. As an example, one test question in a middle school course is: Jesus performed miracles (such as laying his hands on the sick). The possible answers are 1) True or 2) False. It is the view of this examiner that Acellus presents a curriculum that promotes Christian values and religious material in the public school.
It’s not just that this promotion of Christianity was bad for students; it was a legal liability. American Atheists sent letters to education officials across the country in September warning them of unconstitutional religious materials many of them were using — a problem that was accelerated by the pandemic and the subsequent rise of distance learning.
The letter sent to officials in Hawaii was included in the DOE’s final report and referred to as a “warning shot across the bow” because Acellus material “poses a significant risk of not ensuring the separation of church and state.” The simple fact is that if teachers in the classroom taught lessons aligned with these pro-Christian third party vendors, they would be breaking the law. Hawaii — and other states guilty of the same thing — must use more accurate and less ideological programs even though they’re making necessarily hasty decisions in light of the COVID crisis.
That appears to be happening.
DOE spokeswoman Nanea Kalani said Monday the department ensured Acellus “has removed or addressed all of the concerning content that CRCB identified in its review” and will “continue to ensure any reported objectionable content is removed” throughout the course of the school year.
American Atheists is celebrating their role in this victory for students across the state:
“This is a victory for the separation of religion and government. Hawaii public school students will no longer be subjected to unconstitutional religious, sexist, and racist propaganda,” said Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Policy at American Atheists.
“We are pleased that the Hawaii Department of Education heeded our warning about this national issue. Thankfully, our concerns did not fall on deaf ears. [State superintendent Christina M.] Kishimoto and her department conducted an impressively thorough review to rectify the situation,” said Gill.
The question now is whether other students using the same Acellus curriculum — or similar propaganda from other companies — will adjust accordingly.
Incidentally, Dr. Roger Billings, the founder of Acellus, said in a response that Hawaii law required them to teach basics about religion. He’s delusional. There’s a difference between teaching kids about the basic beliefs of various religious groups — which is legal — and promoted Christianity as if it’s true. Acellus did the latter. That’s why it was flawed. You can tell he’s pissed off about it, though.
(Image via Shutterstock)