STAUNTON, Va. – A rural Virginia school district canceled classes and a holiday concert after being flooded with angry messages over a school calligraphy lesson that involved copying a Muslim statement of faith in Arabic.

Some of the tens of thousands of emails and Facebook posts “posed a risk of harm to school officials” and threatened protests, Superintendent Eric Bond said in a message to parents and employees on Friday.

Augusta County Sheriff Randall D. Fisher said security has been assigned to Bond, the teacher who created the lesson and the school’s principal. The teacher is worried about herself and her family, Fisher said.

Anger over the lesson has escalated since a teacher at Riverheads High School gave students an assignment that involved practicing calligraphy and writing a statement in Arabic – the Shahada, a profession of faith recited in Muslims’ daily prayers. It is omnipresent in religious imagery, often appearing on the walls of mosques and in religious art, but also on the flags of groups such as the Islamic State.

The statement translated to: “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” The teacher’s lesson was drawn from instructional material that also includes Judeo-Christian assignments.

At a forum Tuesday, one parent said the assignment promoted a false religious doctrine, while other parents expressed outrage. Some demanded the teacher be fired.

Kimberly Herndon, who organized that event, said she may take the issue to court, The News Leader newspaper reported.

“She gave up the Lord’s time,” Herndon said of LaPorte on Tuesday, according to the newspaper. “She gave it up and gave it to Muhammad.”

The teacher, Cheryl LaPorte, declined comment. A Facebook group supporting LaPorte had more than 2,000 members on Friday. Many commenters defended LaPorte and the school district.

“I think people are making a big deal about it for no reason at all,” said 18-year-old Hannah Carey, a former student of LaPorte who lives in Waynesboro. “We learned about all different cultures, and she was a great teacher.”

School officials said the aim of the lesson was to illustrate the complexity of the written Arabic language, not to promote any religious system.