Much of what parents lined up to tell the Hillsborough County School Board Tuesday night had already been said in thousands of angry emails.
"They have a right to say what they want to say, but in the right place and I don't believe that's the classroom," said Dr. Becky Pearce.
Pearce is part of a coalition of parents and conservative groups that says they're outraged the local head of The Council on American Islamic Relations, or C.A.I.R., was invited to speak at a Tampa high school.
Hassan Shibly was asked to lecture to a class at Steinbrenner High School about the Islamic faith. Shibly says his message was about tolerance, aimed at shattering misconceptions about Muslims.
"We're Americans and we rise or fall as a nation together, and we should respect each other," Shibly said.
Some parents, though, say it's not the message but the messenger that has them fuming. They claim C.A.I.R. is an extremist group that supports terrorism, and doesn't want the group allowed to speak at any school. They want the board to essentially ban C.A.I.R. from speaking at any school.
"It's a threat against our children," one parent said.
A majority of the school board declined to discuss the matter, and denied putting the issue on the agenda. The board has supported the teacher's decision to allow the lecture.
"This was one speaker to high school students as part of a world class," school board chair Candy Olson said.
That decision was frowned upon by The Florida Family Association, one of the groups leading the charge. That same group has worked in recent months to pull sponsors from a reality cable television show about Muslims, and say they intend to keep the pressure on district leaders.
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