Sharon Rogers has sent a letter to the parents of each of her former students at the La Jolla Country Day School saying she did not pose a security risk and 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 the wife of Navy Capt. Will Rogers III 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.
The La Jolla school official estimated that the school might lose as many as 100 of its 702 students if Sharon Rogers had returned. “You lose 100 kids at $6,000 a head, hey . . . ,” the official said.
‘Afraid for My Life’
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.”
Sharon Rogers was on her way to the school March 10 when a bomb blast destroyed the van she was driving. She had stepped out of the vehicle at an intersection in La Jolla just moments before the explosion and was not injured. Investigators have speculated that the bomb may have been planted by terrorists in retaliation for an incident last summer in which her husband, captain of the guided missile cruiser Vincennes, mistakenly ordered the downing of an Iranian civilian airliner in the Persian Gulf. All 290 people on board were killed.
Whether Sharon Rogers agreed to leave her job 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.”
Attempts to reach the Rogerses for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful. Except for a brief letter to newspapers in which they warned against giving in to terrorist threats, they have not communicated publicly since the bombing occurred.
In her letter to parents dated Saturday, obtained by The Times, she said she was “terminated” by the school last Thursday.
She said she had requested that the words “mutual decision” be included in the school’s press release “to help ensure integrity of the board’s decision.” Sources interviewed by The Times have said that she requested the language at the time so it would 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 told The Times Wednesday that they and other teachers were angered by the administration’s decision to fire Sharon 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 Sharon Rogers on 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.
School officials had agreed to withhold a decision on Sharon Rogers’ future until their spring break ends April 3, according to her letter to the parents.
They agreed, the letter said, that “spring break would allow everyone time to properly assess the situation and preclude any premature decisions.”
But instead of waiting until the break ends, school officials notified her last Thursday “that my services had been terminated,” the letter said.
“My husband and I consider this our home and we have no immediate or future plans to change that outlook,” the letter said.
“Our son continues his daily university routine and is fine,” she added.
Capt. Rogers is at sea aboard the Vincennes on a training mission, a Navy spokesman said Wednesday.
Sharon Rogers has temporarily moved out of her home in La Jolla and remains under the protection of the Naval Investigative Service. Both she and her husband have attempted to maintain a low profile since the bombing, but she was interviewed at a local television station this week for a segment of a television show called Crime Stoppers, which is produced by an organization that assists law enforcement agencies in solving crimes.