The first day back to school is usually about making new friends and rocking your fresh-out-the box shoes, but for a group of about 132 preschool and kindergarten students, it was all about protestors.

Yesterday, students at the new Arabic Immersion Magnet School in the Houston Independent School District started their first lesson while nearly 30 people protested outside the building. They carried signs that said things like, “Qatar out of our schools!” and “Everything I ever cared to know about Islam was taught to me by Muslims on 9-11-2001” and “American Schools American Kids.” Protestors told the Houston Chronicle that they don’t have an issue with other immersion schools or Arabic language classes, but that they feel the school is “anti-American” and that immigrants need to “be assimilated.”

 



The school is the first of its kind in the country, and the students—who are roughly one-third each black, Hispanic and white—spend half the day learning in English and half the day learning in Arabic. Arabic is the third most common language spoken at home among families in the district, behind only English and Spanish. “Houston is the energy capital of the world, and we need to have graduates who can communicate with people all over the world,” said superintendent Terry Grier. The district also has a Mandarin immersion school, and Grier said that he hopes to start Hindi and French programs, too.