Charter school drops courses

Plans for curriculum called religious by critics halted at state’s urging

Leaders of a charter school to open in Cabarrus County this fall have suspended indefinitely their plans to offer Transcendental Meditation and Natural Law Curriculum.

The decision comes about two weeks after state officials told the Carolina International School that it had to remove all religion from its curriculum. The N.C. Charter School Advisory Committee specifically targeted TM and Natural Law Curriculum.

Board members of the Carolina International School voted Thursday to suspend TM and Natural Law, although they say the two have nothing to do with religion. The charter school will be the first in Cabarrus County.

“We felt we were left with little choice,” said school director Richard Beall. “Perceptions can power decisions.”

The school’s eight-member board likely must revise its state charter to show that TM and Natural Law won’t be taught, said Jackie Jenkins, education consultant with the state Office of Charter Schools.

Jenkins said the school may need to state explicitly that it will permanently remove TM and Natural Law from its curriculum, instead of using the term “indefinitely suspend.”

“That doesn’t exactly say `remove it,’ and I think that’s what the advisory committee intended,” Jenkins said.

Officials with the school must come up with a revised charter and have it approved by the Charter School Advisory Committee, she said. From there, it will go to the state Board of Education for final approval.

The school’s leaders are to return before the charter advisory committee May 13.

The original curriculum drew fire from some parents and local residents who contacted the state. TM and Natural Law Curriculum are part of Consciousness-Based Education, or CBE, founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a Hindu guru.

Some said they worry the earlier curriculum will return, violating the separation of church and state.

“The only thing I can say is `Let’s see what they do plan on offering,’ ” said Deborah Greene, a Boone resident who has been closely following the school’s plans. “I would recommend that (school officials) take a proactive role in looking at the actual curriculum. … Go and drop by to see what’s going on.”

Beall and others involved in Carolina International say the school will stay strong despite the curriculum changes. The school will offer the International Baccalaureate program and a multicultural focus that will pair each grade with a different sister city in another country.

More than 550 students are registered for 320 seats in the school, Beall said. It plans to open with grades K-7 and will add a grade each year to become K-12.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Charlotte Observer, USA
Apr. 24, 2004
Cristina Breen Bolling

Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday April 25, 2004.
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