A charter school in Inver Grove Heights is taking extra security precautions and working with law enforcement agencies in the wake of death threats.
It all began with a series of newspaper columns accusing Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy of using taxpayer money to teach Islamic religion, something the school's director says is just plain false.
"We are fully aware of the obligations that come with that public money," the academy's director Asad Zaman told KARE 11 Wednesday, "And we take care to insure that we operate a non-sectarian program. None of the public money is spent on any religious activities. "
But recent articles published by a Minneapolis newspaper suggested otherwise, inflaming some readers and an even larger national audience via the Internet.
"The way they've been propagated on hate websites across the Internet caused us to receive numerous death threats, harassing e-mails, harassing phone calls," Zaman said.
Most of the messages were too profane for KARE 11 to share with readers, but one called Zaman a "son of a pig" while another said, "If you persist we will destroy you, your family and your country."
That's why Zaman turned to the Inver Grove Heights Police and the FBI, and now keeps the school's doors locked from the outside.
"Frankly I'm concerned about the safety of the children and the safety of my staff."
Zaman, a Bangladesh immigrant who built a career in software design, moved into public education because he saw a deep need for immigrant children to better themselves.
He's proud of the school's emphasis on academic achievement. . .
"I think it's confusing that people aren't focused on our student achievement because it's so outstanding," the school's lead teacher Wendy Swanson-Choi told KARE 11.
"They're focused instead on something that's not true about the school."
Swanson-Choi's job, for the past three years, has been to observe every classroom, as part of an effort to help teachers hone their instructional techniques.
"For three years I'm here all day," she said, "I never have seen any religious instruction; I've never seen teachers pressuring students to adhere to any religious activity." (MORE)