WA Today

Katherine Fenech
August 25, 2010 - 10:56AM

Students at a West Australian high school have been told to plan a terrorist attack that would kill as many innocent people as possible as part of an assignment.

A society and environment teacher at the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Community High School asked Year 10 students to pretend they were a terrorist planning a chemical or biological attack on ''an unsuspecting Australian community''.

''Your goal is to kill the MOST innocent civilians in order to get your message across,'' the assignment said.

The students had to explain their choice of victims and decide the best time and place for their attack.

WA Council of State Schools president Robert Fry said he was stunned when he heard about the assignment and that there was "something amiss" in the teacher's training.

"I couldn't believe that a teacher could ask a class to do that," Mr Fry said.

"Maybe this (teacher) needs to go back to university to learn a bit more. There's obviously something missed out in the training."

"There's an expectation of standards and we would expect that (the assignment) would not have made it to students."

He congratulated Year 10 student Sarah Gilbert, who brought the matter to the deputy principal's attention.

Sarah said she was horrified with the assignment and asked the teacher for an alternative assessment but was told she had to complete it.

"She is a good teacher, she's one of the best that we have and it just really shocked me that she'd ask us to do this," the student told Radio 6PR.

Sarah's mother, Tania Gilbert, said she was "quite shocked" by the assignment and said after it was brought to the deputy principal's attention it was still not withdrawn.

"Sarah said she didn't want to do the assignment and I told her that that was fine by me," Ms Gilbert said.

"The deputy told the class that they didn't have to do the assignment and it wouldn't affect their grades, but the assignment wasn't changed."

The school's principal, Terry Martino, agreed the assignment was inappropriate, and said he had the task withdrawn as soon as he was aware of its content.

But Sarah said that wasn't the case and some students had handed it in despite being "appalled" by the concept.

"I know people who have handed it in... I had a friend who had the same opinion as me but she did it because she needed the extra marks," she said.

Sarah's mother was quoted as saying the assignment was doubly offensive because a member of her extended family had been killed in the 2002 Bali bombings.

Mr Martino said students were reminded that the teacher was not promoting terrorism and that if they chose not to complete the assignment they wouldn't be disadvantaged.

''The teacher, who is relatively inexperienced, made a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to engage the students in an assignment on contemporary conflict and how beliefs and values influence the behaviours and motives of individuals,'' Mr Martino said.

"I have spoken to the teacher and she is very remorseful and understands that the topic was inappropriate and potentially disturbing and upsetting to students and their families."

He said the incident should be viewed as one mistake by a hard working, keen young teacher "who is highly regarded by both staff, students and the community."

- with AAP