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The Wrong Lesson About Terrorism

The bombing of Sharon Rogers’ car has brought home the dilemmas of dealing with terrorism.

Law enforcement officials have not determined whether the pipe bomb that exploded under the car belonging to the wife of Will Rogers III, the captain of the guided missile cruiser Vincennes, was planted in retaliation for the ship’s accidental downing of an Iranian civilian airliner last July, or for some other reason.

But the possibility that it was a terrorist act has planted a deep seed of fear.

One place where anxiety has been understandably high is La Jolla Country Day School, a private school for about 700 children, where Sharon Rogers has taught for the past 12 years.

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She took time off from her job after the March 10 bombing, and parents expressed considerable concern about the pupils’ safety if she were to return. At the same time, parents and administrators did not want to lose a talented teacher.

The dilemma was resolved Thursday--two days after a bomb threat was phoned in to the school--when La Jolla Country Day announced it had reached a mutual agreement with Rogers for her to resign, “to ensure the safety of the children, the confidence of the parents and the integrity of the educational environment . . . “

But the resolution raises troubling questions.

First, why did the school act so hastily? The FBI hasn’t even finished its investigation. It may turn out that the pipe bomb was not the work of terrorists, in which case Rogers will have lost her job and the school will have needlessly lost a well-regarded teacher. If sufficient security could not be provided to allow Rogers to teach, why not give her a leave of absence until the end of the school year or until the investigation is finished?

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At least by waiting a few months, the decision could have been made in a less fearful atmosphere.

Also, what message is La Jolla Country Day sending to its students about terrorism? Learning to balance safety and principle is one of life’s most difficult lessons, filled with shades of gray.

Safety may have won out too easily in this case, especially since backing down in the face of terrorism is likely to invite more threats.

We believe parent Richard Levin expressed it well when he said in a news story that Sharon Rogers’ resignation might have been “the safe thing to do, but not the right thing to do.”


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