The Australian Federal Police on Thursday morning confirmed a report that a high school teacher had assigned her class to plan a terrorist attack that would kill as many innocent Australians as possible.
An Australian police spokesman was quoted by news Web site WAtoday as saying that the teacher was exposing her students to a minimum jail term of at least 10 years, for collecting or making documents related to a terrorist attack.
Australia to urge counter-terror measures in Bali
The spokesman added that being "reckless as to whether these documents may assist or prepare for a terrorist attack" is also illegal.
On Wednesday, Australian education officials had stressed that the teacher had no intent to promote terorrism.
The Year 10 students at Kalgoorlie-Boulder Community High School in the state of Western Australia were given the assignment last week in a class on contemporary conflict and terrorism.
Principal Terry Martino said he withdrew the assignment as soon as he heard of it.
But after news of the assignment was published in Wednesday's West Australian newspaper, talk radio and online forums began a busy debate and some survivors of terror attacks across Australia — which has been a target of terror campaigns at home and abroad — came forward to express their outrage.
"It's extremely offensive if you've ever been involved in it," said Peter Hughes, who was burned over half of his body in the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, on the Indonesian resort island.
"It's something they would probably do in some radical school in Indonesia. For it to be done in the state education system is mind-blowing," he told the newspaper.
The students were asked to pretend they were terrorists making a political statement by releasing a chemical or biological agent on "an unsuspecting Australian community," according to a copy of the assignment received by the West Australian newspaper.
The task included choosing the best time to attack and explaining their choice of victims and what effects the attack would have on a human body.
"Your goal is to kill the MOST innocent civilians in order to get your message across," the assignment read.
Grades were to be allocated based on students' ability to analyze information they had learned on terrorism and chemical and biological warfare and apply it to a real-life scenario, the newspaper reported.
The school declined to identify the teacher, citing her privacy, and her name also was not given in the newspaper report.
Student Sarah Gilbert, 15, told the newspaper she was horrified by the
"I was shocked and quite offended," she said. "I'm offended that it's
Australia but I'm disgusted because it doesn't matter where it is, it's
still not something you ask someone to do or think about. ... There is a
difference between being a terrorist and learning about terrorism."
Gilbert — whose mother lost a relative in the Bali bombings — wrote a
letter to her teacher refusing to do the assignment.
"Even though it may seem petty, to me my beliefs are more important than
an "A'' stating I am smart," Gilbert wrote. A copy of her letter was
published by the newspaper.