Charter school could be forced to close after 'promoting Scientology to students'

Daily Mail, UK/February 27, 2012

A scathing report unveils the ways how leaders of a Florida charter school are using their position as a way to teach unknowing students the advantages of Scientology.

Students at The Life Force Arts and Technology school near Tampa, Florida were taught using methods championed by the creator of Scientology and they were taken to temples during school-sponsored field trips.

Though the school receives $800,000 in federal funds, it is still struggling financially and students were forced to print out their own reading materials at home in order get around mismanaged budgets.

All of the findings, which come in a lengthy article in The Tampa Bay Times, fly in the face of the school leader's claims that they would not be promoting any particular religion with their methods.

It is hard to argue that the school does not have close ties to Scientology. One clear example was that the students- who largely come from the poor town of Dunedin- were taken to a Christmas party at the area's new Scientology temple.

While there, the students watched a play written by the religion's founder L. Ron Hubbard, and were all sent home with copies of his book, The Carnival of Death.

Parents cry foul with the move because they feel that their children are being used as pawns in a giant recruitment push.

'Everyone knows the easiest way is through a child,' said Greg Blunt, the father of a girl at the school.

'"Here, little girl, have some candy. Here, little boy, have some books to read",' Mr Blunt told The Tampa Bay Times.

'Kids are kids. They're impressionable. If you can get through to the kids, trust me, you can rule the world.'

The school is run by a group called the World Literacy Crusade, which practices the controversial practices called 'study technology' which was created by Mr Hubbard.

One point of contention is how the method charges that any and all problems can be solved with a dictionary.

'The only reason a person gives up a study or becomes confused, is because he has gone past a word that was not understood,' explains one study tech manual, a children's picture book called Learning How To Learn.

That picture book was given to teachers as instructional manuals, and if they ever voiced opposition to the methods, the teachers were fired. Just last month, three teachers were sacked.

Other charges that the article makes include that the school's organizer Hanan Islam claims to have her doctorate but her degree only came from a school that is known for their low standards.

Parents have also found fault with the fact that students are forced to work with the janitorial staff if they do something bad, with the teachers finding that as a good way for the students to 'clean' up their image.

In spite of the murky religious undertones of the school, the district cannot cut off the hundreds of thousands of dollars of funds because it is in bankruptcy court.

Ms Islam shrugs off all charges of impropriety saying that acceptance of all is key to the school's philosophy.

'I make it my business to associate with anyone actively working to benefit mankind,; she told The Tampa Bay Times by email.

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