Press Release: March 3

March 3, 2008

Contact: David Lerner or Shonna Carter, Riptide Communications 212-260-5000


Former Founding Principal of Khalil Gibran International Academy Charges that The Doe Discriminated Against Her On The Basis Of Race, Religion, and National Origin
Also: School’s Math Teacher Says Leadership is Lacking without Almontaser and the Mission of the School Has Been Lost

March 3, 2008 – Today, Debbie Almontaser, a highly respected educator who was denied the opportunity to interview for the position of principal at the Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA) – the school she envisioned and designed – filed an amended complaint in her federal lawsuit and a charge with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, both of which assert that Department of Education (DOE) officials discriminated against her on the basis of race, religion, and national origin.

In a separate development Maysa Jarara, a math and Arabic teacher at the school, issued a statement decrying the lack of leadership at the school since Ms. Almontaser’s departure and charging the DOE with subverting the original vision of the school. (Attached.)

“The DOE’s demand for Almontaser’s resignation followed a relentless public relations assault that focused on her as an Arab and a Muslim. The DOE’s capitulation to those attacks constitutes, as a matter of law, discrimination by the DOE. The appointment of a patently less qualified white, non-Muslim woman was the final act of the DOE’s discriminatory conduct.” said Ms. Almontaser’s attorney Alan Levine

Last year, the DOE and the Mayor’s office forced Ms. Almontaser to resign from her position as founding principal of Khalil Gibran International Academy, New York’s first dual language school dedicated to teaching Arabic language and culture, under the premise that they would not open the school if she remained at its helm. Subsequently, after the school was opened, Ms. Almontaser was told by officials of the DOE’s Office of New Schools, that the administration would not support her return to the school.

At a recent argument in Ms. Almontaser’s lawsuit, U.S. Court of Appeals judges criticized the City for overreacting to what they called “garbling” of Ms. Almontaser’s words by a New York Post reporter.

In 2005, Ms. Almontaser was asked by New Visions for Public Schools, an educational reform organization that assists the DOE in establishing new schools, to spearhead the development of KGIA and then to become its founding principal.

KGIA was designed as a school that would focus on Arabic language and cultural studies, and, as one of its missions, would promote understanding between New York’s Arab and non-Arab communities.

Ms. Almontaser was initially named Project Director, the title that is given by the DOE to all persons who lead the development of a new school. In July 2007, the Department of Education named Ms. Almontaser the interim acting principal of the school, which is the title that leaders of new schools are customarily given until a permanent principal is selected. During that time Ms. Almontaser supervised the development of curriculum, hired and trained staff, recruited students and parents, purchased supplies, and prepared the school for its September opening.

As a result of a series of attacks on the school by a conservative blog and an article in the New York Post that quoted Ms. Almontaser on a matter completely unrelated to KGIA, the DOE forced her to resign her post and further, denied her the opportunity to apply for the job of permanent Principal.

Ms. Almontaser is asking the Court for an injunction compelling the DOE to interview her for the job of principal and for damages.