LAST FALL, I WALKED INTO Room 154 at my son’s public elementary school in Great Falls, Va., for the inaugural meeting of a new after-school club. The club’s lead organizer, a parent at the school, eyed me as she stacked Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies snacks and asked about my son, a fifth-grader at the school: “Is Shibli here?”
“No,” I responded, quietly taking my seat. I’d come out of curiosity. Our school administrators had emailed parents a flyer advertising a free, exciting, fun-filled hour of “dynamic Bible lessons,” “creative learning activities,” and “inspiring missionary stories,” with a pledge to teach our children “respect for authority,” “moral values,” and “character qualities.” Would this club be a good experience for my fifth grader?
At 3:17 p.m., three minutes before the dismissal bell, the mother-volunteer said: “Asra, I’m going to have to ask you to leave. This is a kid’s club, and you don’t have a kid [here].” My curiosity turned to suspicion. Instead of leaving, I called the school district’s public affairs office who confirmed that the club, held on public school grounds, was in fact open to anyone, with or without a child.
The mother ran out of the room and returned with the school principal. He bee-lined to me, yelling: “Right now, you are disturbing the children.” I looked around. The children were happily munching on their Cheddar Bunnies. He moved the club to the gym. When I followed, he blocked my way.