Federal officials unable to act

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The Saudi government has turned over textbooks to the State Department, which has not made the books public and cited a prior agreement with Saudi officials that books would be revised in time for the start of the next school year.

Academy officials said the federal panel’s report is “erroneous,” “contains mistranslated and misinterpreted texts” and focused on books that are no longer in use.

Rahima Abdullah, chairman of the school’s education department, said officials did not know the county was going to send a letter to the State Department but that the school is looking forward to hearing the department’s input.

“Just as Fairfax County is waiting to hear what the State Department says, so are we,” Ms. Abdullah said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Connolly’s letter noted the commission’s textbook review came to light after the board renewed the academy’s lease.

But his request for State Department input was criticized as a flip-flop by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which accused Mr. Connolly of “buckling under political pressure” after he accused critics of the academy of “slander” at the May public hearing.

Mr. Connolly, who faces Republican Keith S. Fimian in the November general election, could not be reached for comment.

Fairfax County began leasing the former Walt Whitman Intermediate School at 8333 Richmond Highway in Alexandria for the academy’s use Jan. 1, 1989. The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia leases the space for operation of the academy.

There have been five addendums to the lease, county spokeswoman Merni Fitzgerald said. The most recent extension, approved by the board May 19, will generate $2.2 million in rent for the county and contains an option to extend the lease for two additional one-year periods upon approval by both parties.

The county’s call for State Department intervention follows its own small-scale review of the Saudi school’s textbooks in October. A Fairfax County employee familiar with Arabic voluntarily reviewed textbooks provided by the school, but no written report was produced, Ms. Fitzgerald said.

At the board’s May 19 meeting, Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland - a Democrat who represents the Mount Vernon district, where the school is located - said the review did not give him the impression that hate was being taught at the academy.

But he said if a later review produced a different finding, “then certainly we would have to relook at the lease and decide what best to do.”

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