The New York Times describes the story of Debbie Almontaser, who dreamed of starting a unique public school in Brooklyn in which children of Arab and non-Arab descent would join students of other faiths in learning Arabic together, with hopes of becoming ambassadors of peace and hope. Plans for the school, however, have not gone so well; children have been suspended for carrying weapons, gotten into fights, and reportedly taunted an Arabic teacher by calling her a terrorist. The academy’s troubles continued, as the school’s creation provoked a controversy so incendiary that Ms. Almontaser, a teacher and inter-faith activist, said she was forced to resign by the mayor’s office following a campaign that pitted her against critics who claimed she had a militant Islamic agenda. The full article and story following the school can be read at the link below.
The founding principal of the city’s first Arabic-language school said yesterday that the Bloomberg administration forced her to resign in August by threatening to shut the school. She said she was applying to get the job back. In her first detailed public account of what led her to step down after defending the word ”intifada” on a T-shirt, the principal, Debbie Almontaser, presented herself as the victim of an anti-Arab ”smear campaign” from conservative newspapers and blogs and of pressure from city officials…
The principal of New York City’s first public school dedicated to the study of Arabic language and culture resigned under pressure yesterday, days after she was quoted defending the use of the word intifada as a T-shirt slogan. Debbie Almontaser, a veteran public school teacher, stepped down as the principal of Khalil Gibran International Academy, a middle school that is to open this fall in Brooklyn. This morning I tendered my resignation to Chancellor Klein, which he accepted, she said in a statement, referring to Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein. I became convinced yesterday that this week’s headlines were endangering the viability of Khalil Gibran International Academy, even though I apologized. Those headlines had become impossible for Ms. Almontaser and the Department of Education to ignore. On Wednesday, a headline in The New York Post called Ms. Almontaser the Intifada Principal. Yesterday, an editorial in the paper had the headline, What’s Arabic for _Shut It Down’?
The New York City school system will open its first public school dedicated to teaching the Arabic language and culture in September, with half of its classes eventually taught in Arabic, officials said yesterday. The school, the Khalil Gibran International Academy, is one of 40 new schools that the Department of Education is opening for the 2007-8 school year. It will serve grades 6 to 12 and will be in Brooklyn, although a specific location has not been determined. Debbie Almontaser, a 15-year veteran of the school system who is the driving force behind the school and will be its principal, said that ideally, the school would serve an equal mix of students with backgrounds in Arabic language and culture and those without such backgrounds.