Local News

Controversial Assignment Leads To Teacher's Resignation

Posted November 17, 2006

— A Spanish teacher at Smithfield-Selma Senior High School resigned this week after handing out an assignment that some students and parents said teaches hate.

Khalid Chahhou, who was in his first year of teaching in Johnston County, gave students a worksheet in which they were to translate words and find them within a word-search puzzle.

Some students started uncovering strange words in the process.

"There were words like 'kill,' then I saw it said 'destroy America,'" Eric Herrera said.

As they read on, students found the puzzle contained a paragraph that contained the following phrases:

  • "Sharon killed a lot of innocent people," a possible reference to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

  • "Palestine is not a terrorist group."

  • "Allah help destroy this body of evil making humanity miserable."

    "It was kind of scary at first to think about, you know, your own teacher in your own school that is teaching you," Herrera said.

    School administrators said they confronted Chahhou about an unidentified concern Wednesday and he resigned.

    "The situation surrounding the resignation has prompted us to call the proper authorities," said Crystal Roberts, the spokeswoman for Johnston County Schools.

    The Johnston County Sheriff's Office reviewed the complaint, but investigators said they don't see any reason to file criminal charges or contact other agencies.

    Chahhou, who also teaches Arabic at a religious school affiliated with the Islamic Association of Cary, told WRAL in a telephone interview that students got the wrong message from the assignment.

    "When I made the assignment, I was upset and angry about a story I recently saw on the news. If any message appears, it is more of a message to myself, not to my students. I never meant to hurt or upset any students or parents," he said.

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