Augusta County Public Schools officials said no specific threat
had been made against students, but some calls and emails received
by the district posed a risk of harm to school officials.
The outcry appeared to reflect anxiety and distrust of Muslims among
some Americans following a Dec. 2 shooting that killed 14 people in
San Bernardino, California, by a married couple inspired by militant
Islamism and attacks in Paris by Islamic State militants on Nov. 13
that killed 130 people.
Some messages to the Virginia school district contained profane and
graphic content, including a call to behead the teacher who gave the
assignment, Augusta County Sheriff Randy Fisher said.
Others threatened large protests on or near school property in the
district, located in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley about 150 miles
(240 km) southwest of Washington, officials said.
The Arabic text, according to the News Leader newspaper, translated
as "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammad is the messenger of
Some parents have accused the teacher, Cheryl LaPorte, of trying to
indoctrinate students with Islam and are calling for her to be
"I do not trust her to teach my son and regardless of the outcome he
will not sit in her classroom," mother Kimberly Herndon said in a
Facebook post that has been shared more than 300 times.
The district decided to begin the school system's winter break early
and canceled extracurricular activities this weekend for the
district's 10,000 students, Superintendent Eric Bond said in a
Across the country this week, a rash of email and phone threats of
violence hit schools. Most were deemed not credible and schools
Los Angeles officials closed the country's second-largest public
school system on Tuesday after receiving emailed threats that were
later deemed a hoax, a move that was criticized by some as
[to top of second column]
Franklin Community Schools in Indiana were shut on Friday after a
high school was evacuated a day earlier due to a threat.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation was assisting in the
investigation of threats that caused suburban Indianapolis school
districts in Plainfield and Danville to cancel classes on Thursday.
The Virginia school district said students would continue to learn
about world religions as required by the state but a non-religious
sample of Arabic writing would be used in the future.
"No lesson was designed to promote a religious viewpoint or change
any student's religious belief," the statement said.
LaPorte said she had received overwhelming support from former
students, colleagues and others in the community. A "Support
LaPorte" page on Facebook had more than 2,000 members on Friday.
"All I want now is time for our community to heal," she said in an
email to Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Megan Cassella in Washington and Suzannah
Gonzales in Chicago; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Frances
Kerry and Lisa Shumaker)
[© 2015 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2015 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.