The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has determined that a New York City educator ousted from her job as the interim principal of an Arabic-themed public school because of a controversial newspaper interview was discriminated against on the basis of race, religion, and national origin.
The EEOC decision came March 9 in the case of Debbie Almontaser, who was the acting interim principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a public school in the city, in August 2007 when she gave an interview to the New York Post about the school. The Post‘s story twisted her words, Almontaser and her supporters have argued, to suggest that the administrator was sympathetic to Islamic radicals.
Amid controversy, Almontaser resigned the interim position, but later applied to become the principal of the Khalil Gibran academy. The New York City school system’s refusal to hire her has prompted various legal actions.
In its determination, the EEOC said the New York City Department of Education “succumbed to the very bias that the creation of the school was intended to dispel.” The department’s actions likely violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the EEOC said, and the commission gave the parties the chance to resolve the dispute before the agency or Almontaser could take the matter to court.
The commission determined that New Visions for Public Schools, a private group that was involved in starting the Arabic-themed academy, was not Almontaser’s employer and that there was no cause to believe it discriminated against her.
Almontaser has already lost at several points in a separate lawsuit that charged her dismissal was unlawful retaliation in violation of her First Amendment free speech rights. On Sept. 1, a federal district judge in New York City granted summary judgment to the school system on Almontaser’s speech retaliation claim, which I blogged about here.
A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.