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Update: Boone Police Investigates Letters Sent To WHS Teachers Regarding ‘The House of the Spirits’ Novel

By Jesse Wood

Feb. 21, 2014. The Boone Police Department is investigating letters that teachers at Watauga High School received on Feb. 17, concerning “The House of the Spirits,” the novel that is the subject of a parent book challenge that undergoes the third and final appeal before the Watauga County Board of Education on Feb. 27.   

imgres-1Sgt. Shane Robbins, a spokesman with the Boone Police Department, mentioned that “several” teachers received the letters. Other than saying the letters were about the book and were directed at teachers and not students, Robbins wouldn’t divulge too many other details.

“We can’t disclose the content of the letters,” Robbins said, only adding that the letters had teachers “concerned.”

Robbins mentioned that now investigators are trying to track down the author of the letters “to see what’s going on and see what the intent was.”

Mary Kent Whitaker, the 10th grade WHS teacher in the middle of the book challenge because her honors class utilized the book, received the letter but declined to comment on the advice of WHS Principal Marshall Gasperson, who cited the ongoing investigation by the Boone Police Department.

While Robbins – when asked if the letters were threatening – mentioned that his department was “careful” in describing the letters or how they made teachers feel, Supt. David Fonseca didn’t mince words in a prepared statement issued by Watauga County Schools: 

“Watauga County Schools Superintendent Dr. David Fonseca has issued a statement condemning the anonymous threatening letters sent to English faculty at Watauga High School last week.  The threats were made in connection with the use of the book The House of the Spirits in an English class at the high school.

Dr. Fonseca said “It is one thing to disagree with a policy or a procedure or a book used in the schools.  It is a completely different and unacceptable thing to threaten someone because they hold a different opinion. This threat is a despicable attempt to intimidate a very professional and accomplished group of educators who deserve our respect.  It is also a criminal act, and we are cooperating fully with local law enforcement in their efforts to find out who is responsible for the letters.  We will support the prosecution of that person or persons to the fullest extent of the law.  We urge anyone who may have any knowledge about the source of these threats to contact Crime Stoppers or the Boone Police Department.” 

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 828-268-6959 / 828-737-0125 or the Boone Police Department at 828-268-6900.  All information will be kept confidential. High Country Crime Stoppers pays rewards for information that leads to arrests; recovery of stolen property; seizure of drugs and the location of wanted persons.

For more on the book challenge: