Press Release: Dec. 3

Press Advisory * For Immediate Release

Contact: Erica, 718-431-4465, Mona 917-703-0488, kgiasupport@gmail.com

Federal Court Hearing Continues Monday With Cross Examination:

Almontaser’s Lawyers argue Department of Education’s refusal to consider Almontaser’s application based on merits.

December 3, 2007, New York, NY— Attorneys for Debbie Almontaser, the Khalil Gibran International Academy’s founding principal, will continue arguments Monday, December 3, before Federal District Judge Sidney Stein, who is hearing Almontaser’s lawsuit against Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Department of Education (DOE), Chancellor Joel Klein, Community School District 15 Superintendent Rosemary Stuart, and Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott. The hearing will continue with the cross examination of Ms Almontaser; Rosemary Stuart will also take the stand.

On November 19th, lawyers Alan Levine and Cynthia Rollings filed the lawsuit to block the appointment of a permanent principal on the grounds that Almontaser’s application was not considered on its merits. “The silencing, censorship, and intimidation that are part of this First Amendment case impact democratic education throughout all our city’s schools, not just the career of a gifted and committed New York City educator,” said Erica Waples, a spokesperson of Communities in Support of KGIA, a diverse coalition that rallied supporters in front of the courthouse.

Forced to resign as founding principal of the Arabic dual language school she helped create, Almontaser applied in October to become KGIA’s permanent principal, but was not among those interviewed as part of the C-30 process, the process by which a school’s principal is selected. Her lawyers are seeking to block the appointment of a permanent principal, which is anticipated to occur in early December. They argue that there is a clear connection between the DOE’s refusal to consider the merits of her application and two statements by individuals in high places in the Department of Education: the first to Almontaser that the Chancellor would never permit the appointment, and the second to the New York Times that Almontaser would not be “placed in the position” (October 18, 2007). Her lawyers are also seeking provision for impartial consideration of Almontaser’s application, rather than having her application reviewed in a DOE-controlled process.

During her deposition taken last week, Almontaser recalled that Deputy Mayor Walcott—who met with Almontaser on the evening of August 9, 2007—demanded her resignation, saying, in Almontaser’s words, “I want the Mayor to be ready to announce this on the radio tomorrow morning because he is going to get calls and because the New York Post editorial board is going to be writing something and it will make news tomorrow and we need to have the Mayor prepared and we need to have your resignation letter for him to announce your resignation.” A 6-month anti-Arab and anti-Muslim media campaign prior to Almontaser’s Post interview fueled the demand for her resignation.

Debbie Almontaser stated on Friday, “What upset me the most was I knew Mayor Bloomberg, and I couldn’t believe he was taking the word of the [New York] Post over my word.” Almontaser also said Schools Chancellor Joel Klein refused her request for a meeting after her comments were published.

“Top leaders succumbed to political pressure, forgetting what was best for the children in KGIA and in all NYC schools,” said Almontaser’s lawyer Alan Levine, “The demand for Debbie’s resignation came from the very top in this city, from leaders who wanted, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the ‘absence of tension,’ but not the ‘presence of justice.'”

Jacqueline Ancess, a national expert on small schools who is currently co-director of the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University, will testify that the DOE improperly failed to consider the merits of her application. Tomorrow Levine and Rollings will present the specific allegations contained in the lawsuit and describe how various city officials conspired to deny her the opportunity to regain her position as principal, all in violation of her constitutional rights.

This hearing follows testimony Monday that a court can issue infractions to state laws to protect constitutional rights. Almontaser’s attorney Alan Levine explained that for the Department of Education to choose a candidate that is less qualified based on their protected views would go against constitutional rights and therefore, be illegal.

The court hearing will be held on Monday, December 3, 2007, at 12:00 p.m.; the trial will be at the New Federal Courthouse, 500 Pearl St., near Foley Square (Worth St. entrance).

Communities in Support of KGIA is a coalition of individuals and organizations from myriad backgrounds, in New York and across the U.S.A., who publicly support KGIA’s vision and demand fairness by advocating for Almontaser’s reinstatement.

CISKGIA has provided a platform for Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and other officials and leaders, to testify about Debbie’s exemplary career in interfaith relations and education, and to publicly demand fairness from NYC’s leaders.

Interviews available upon request.

Video, press releases and more information available at https://kgia.wordpress.com.

Contact us at kgiasupport@gmail.com

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