The wife of Navy Capt. Will Rogers III has sent a letter to the parents of each of her former students at the La Jolla Country Day School saying that she does not pose a security risk, had planned to return to the school, but was “terminated” by school officials.
A school official, who asked not to be named, told The Times on Wednesday that Sharon Rogers was ordered not to return in part because of concerns about the safety of the children, but also because administrators were worried that parents would pull their children out of the exclusive private school.
She has not taught at the school since a bomb went off under the van she was driving March 10, prompting an investigation into whether she was the intended victim of a terrorist attack. Her husband skippered the guided missile cruiser Vincennes that mistakenly shot down an Iranian airliner down over the Persian Gulf last July, killing 290 people. Iran vowed revenge at the time.
The La Jolla school official estimated that the school might lose as many as 100 of its 702 students if Rogers had returned. “You lose 100 kids at $6,000 a head, hey. . . ,” the official said.
He said the school administration also was “afraid for the children’s lives. I’m afraid for my life. If she came back to the school I would consider resigning.”
Whether Rogers agreed to leave or was fired has been a matter of controversy since her departure was announced as a “mutual decision” by the school last week.
Jim Stewart, a spokesman for the school, said Wednesday she was not fired. “We’re just not renewing her contract,” he said.
But Stewart added, “No matter what kind of furor she expresses, she’s not coming back. Period.”
In her letter to parents dated Saturday and obtained by The Times on Wednesday, Rogers said she was “terminated” by the school last Thursday. She said in the letter that earlier, in consultation with school officials, she had requested that the words “mutual decision” appear in the school’s press release “to help ensure integrity of the board’s decision.” At that time, according to sources who have spoken to Rogers, she wanted it to appear that she had not been fired.
She said in the letter that federal agencies had done “an in-depth threat assessment” and found that “no evidence exists of a direct or implied threat against me or the school.” As a result, she said, she was “prepared to resume (her) full classroom schedule.”
Two teachers who work at the school said that they and other teachers were angered by the administration’s decision to fire Rogers. “Most of them feel the decision was made entirely too soon because they don’t even know for sure who did it (the bombing). There was no reason to fire her. All they had to do was say, ‘Mrs. Rogers is on an administrative leave,’ and then make the decision.”
“I think they were reacting to the pressure of the media and a real minority of the parents who were hysterical,” said one teacher, who spoke on the condition that her name not be used. “None of us ever felt scared. . . . We were horrified for Sharon but most of us didn’t feel like they were going to bomb the school.”
The teacher said that at a faculty meeting last week, administrators said keeping Rogers could “choke a school to death” financially. The school’s handling of the incident was “disgusting and it doesn’t make me proud to teach here,” she said.