“School Grounds as Battlefield: Political Lessons at an Arabic-themed School” : In These Times

By Michelle Chen

In 2007, New York City public schools were poised to break new cultural ground. The city established the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a comprehensive public school specializing in the Arabic language. The grade 6-12 school, the first of its kind, was designed as a symbol of cross-cultural understanding in a city still healing from the scars of September 11.

the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission vindicated Almontaser, ruling that the New York City Department of Education’s treatment of Almontaser was discriminatory

It was also the opportunity of a lifetime for Debbie Almontaser, a Yemeni-American New Yorker, longtime educator and activist, who was chosen to head the new school. But that dream was soon extinguished by those who believe the city has no business engaging Arab culture through the classroom.

Before the school even opened its doors, a right-wing cabal launched a smear campaign against Almontaser and the city’s Arab and Muslim communities. In the end, the school survived, but Almontaser was ousted in a storm of anti-Muslim screeds from the conservative media and blogosphere.  Read more…


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