A federal panel says the Department of Education discriminated against the principal of a Brooklyn dual-language school by forcing her to resign, when critics accused the institution of indoctrinating students into service for jihad. According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission the DOE “succumbed to the very bias that creation of the school was intended to dispel and a small segment of the public succeeded in imposing its prejudices on D.O.E. as an employer.”
In 2007, when Debbie Almontaser was appointed as head of the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn, opponents decried her as a “9/11 denier” and a “jihadist,” despite her reputation for being a moderate Muslim. After a damning Post article that tied her to T-Shirts bearing the word “Intifada” (commonly associated with the militant uprising in Israel), she was asked to step down.
According to the Commission, the DOE was biased against Almontaser—who is of Yemeni and Muslim descent— “on account of her race, religion and national origin.” It determined that she had no connection with the incriminating shirts and reprimanded the Post for its aggravating role in the scandal, reports the Times. “Significantly, it was not her actual remarks, but their elaboration by the reporter—creating waves of explicit anti-Muslim bias from several extremist sources—that caused D.O.E. to act,” the commission’s letter said.
The vote of support may help the former principal in her quest to reclaim her job, as well as $300,000 in damages and legal fees incurred during court proceedings. Still, the DOE’s lawyer fired back that it “in no way discriminated against Ms. Almontaser and she will not be reinstated.”