Discrimination case no longer suits Almontaser

for The Brooklyn Paper
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In a surprising reversal, the founder of a public school with a controversial Arabic curriculum announced that she will not pursue a lawsuit against the city for wrongful termination — despite a recent report from a federal agency that she was deserving of financial reparations and reinstatement.

The former principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, Debbie Almontaser, said that the prospect of a protracted court case that would have thrust her back into the spotlight was too much to bear.

“I have decided that it is time for me to move on with my professional and personal life,” said Almontaser. “Additional litigation of the discrimination claim would mean re-living the unfortunate and painful events of August, 2007, when news stories daily distorted my words and attacked my work, my integrity, and my reputation.”

Almontaser’s decision to withdraw the suit comes only two months after the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that the Department of Education “succumbed to the very bias that creation of the school was intended to dispel” when it forced the Muslim educator to quit her job as principal of Khalil Gibran.

City officials reiterated their stance that Almontaser’s firing was legal.

“As we’ve stated previously, the [federal] finding was without any basis whatsoever, and the [Department of Education] in no way discriminated against Ms. Almontaser,” said Michael Best, a lawyer for the city. The whirlwind of controversy surrounding Almontaser began back in February, 2007, when the educator unveiled an innovative English and Arabic curriculum that would, she said, foster greater understanding between two cultures that are often perceived as being at odds.

But right-wing bloggers got wind of the new school, and labels like “madrassa” and “jihad school” began circulating in the media.

During the furor, Almontaser appeared in a New York Post article about a line of T-shirt designs that read, “Intifada NYC.” Almontaser failed to renounce the shirts in the article, and resigned in the subsequent firestorm.

The school opened without her.

In the wake of the federal ruling in March that vindicated Almontaser, Khalil Gibran’s then-principal, Holly Anne Reichert, abruptly resigned and Beshir Abdellatif took over, making him the first Muslim-American to run the Arabic school in its brief history — a coincidence that did not elude the embattled educator.

“While it is shameful that it took a finding of discrimination by an independent federal agency to force the city’s hand, I hope that this appointment will bring the stability and leadership to the school that it so badly needs,” Almontaser said.

Almontaser currently works as a special education coordinator at a high school in Brooklyn, and is still awaiting a decision by the US Court of Appeals on another lawsuit charging that her First Amendment rights were violated by her firing.

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Reader Feedback

Hazel from Windsor Terrace says:
She was unfairly fired, but her school was unjustly opened. It's a terrible idea based on pc fluff and no substance. If anything, it isolates pupils, and distracts from the focus of public schools - which should be teaching reading, writting, math, etc. and no be a laboratory for social engineering.
All students should be made to feel welcome at all schools, and students should learn about all facets of our world. There is no reason to cage them into learing in the context of only one cultural group. I believe that this school sets a fence around the students and excludes the breadth and richness of the world the students will end up living in.
I wish she would continue with her lawsuit because she was treatedly wrongly - and if she is to be a role model for young people, she ought to stand up for what is right and stand against injustice.
June 2, 2010, 4:54 am
joey from clinton hills says:
er, maybe her support for an intifada runs deeper than previously known and she doesn't want that to be revealed at trial? (just a guess.)
June 2, 2010, 10:52 am
Patty cake from Clinton Hill says:
Yeah, i agree with Joey - and btw, just what exactly is she hiding underneath that headscarf?
But clearly she is dropping her case because of an embarassing secret that threatened to reveal itself at trial. no one believes her non-sensical excuse.
June 2, 2010, 5:28 pm
Nicole from Bay Ridge says:
I'm disheartened to hear these racist and misinformed comments. firstly regarding "isolating pupils" and focusing "one cultural group", the school has a curiculum like any other public school, with an focus on ARABIC LANGUAGE. The arabic language is spoken in over 22 countries, each with disctinct cultures, religions (islam, christianity, judiasm and even aetheism and others). It is also spoken by arabic speaking Americans. Education leads to understanding an wisedom, and learning to speak arabic can be part of this.

Intifada means shaking off in arabic, and that was her initial comment before racist anti-semite and anti-arab, anti-muslim, groups took over disseminating misinformation about this situation.
June 3, 2010, 2:44 pm
Jameel from Bay Ridge says:
okay Nicole, I'll bite..what was DA wanting to "shake off" in NYC?
June 3, 2010, 4:34 pm

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