FAIRFAX COUNTY

Head of Islamic School Guilty Of Not Reporting Child Abuse

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By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 31, 2008

The director general of a controversial private Islamic school in Fairfax County has been found guilty of a misdemeanor charge of failing to report child abuse and fined $500.

Abdalla I. Al-Shabnan, head of the Islamic Saudi Academy on Route 1 in the Mount Vernon area, was arrested last month by Fairfax police, who said Al-Shabnan had been informed of the possible sexual abuse of a 5-year-old student at the school. School authorities are required by law to report alleged child abuse within 72 hours.

Al-Shabnan was charged with misdemeanor counts of failing to report child abuse and obstruction of justice. He pleaded no contest July 24 to the failure to report charge, and Fairfax prosecutors agreed to dismiss the obstruction charge, according to court records.

Al-Shabnan did not return a phone call seeking comment yesterday. His attorney, Robert C. Whitestone, said, "We thought it was a fair resolution."

The Islamic Saudi Academy has come under criticism because some of its textbooks contain passages that extol jihad and martyrdom, call for victory over one's enemies and say the killing of adulterers and apostates is justified. The academy has rented the school from Fairfax County since 1984, and the county recently renewed its lease for three years.

Protesters picketed the school last month, saying it promotes religious intolerance. The county has asked the State Department to review the school's texts.

Cultural differences might have led to the episode that resulted in Al-Shabnan's arrest. A police affidavit filed last month said that detectives learned in May that the 5-year-old girl attended the academy's West Campus on Popes Head Road, just south of Fairfax City, and her sexual abuse allegations had been reported to the school's administrators. No report was made to any state agency.

Detectives interviewed the girl and then visited Al-Shabnan, who said he "did not believe her complaint and felt she may be attempting to gain attention," according to the affidavit by Detective Doug Comfort.

Al-Shabnan told police that he met with the child's parents and advised them to seek counseling for the girl. Al-Shabnan then reportedly told the detectives that he "was not aware that he was required to make such a report" to child protective agencies, Comfort wrote. Police also found that Al-Shabnan had "ordered the written report deleted from the computer" of the school.

Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Ian M. Rodway said the plea agreement "was satisfactory to all the people involved in the case."


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