Former Arabic School Principal Faces Defamation Suit
hat tip-Margo I.
By Andrea Elliott May 16, 2008, 6:51 pm http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/16/former-arabic-school-principal-faces-defamation-suit/#more-2882 Debbie Almontaser in April. (Diane Bondareff/Associated Press) Three opponents of a Brooklyn public school that teaches mandatory Arabic filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the school’s founding principal, Debbie Almontaser, claiming that she had defamed them by saying that they stalked her. The women, Sara Springer, Irene Alter and Pamela Hall, are members of the Stop the Madrassa Coalition, a group that has protested the Khalil Gibran International Academy, which opened in Boerum Hill last fall. The plaintiffs, who filed the lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, are seeking punitive damages. In a firestorm of controversy, Ms. Almontaser stepped down as the school’s founding principal last August after an article in The New York Post stated that she had “downplayed the significance” of T-shirts bearing the slogan “Intifada NYC.” Ms. Almontaser said that her words were distorted by The Post and that she was forced to resign by the mayor’s office. The lawsuit against Ms. Almontaser references, among other things, a public statement she made on the steps of City Hall on Oct. 16 in which she said, “Members of the coalition stalked me wherever I went and verbally assaulted me with vicious anti-Arab and anti-Muslim comments.” The lawsuit cites a nearly identical statement in a complaint filed by Ms. Almontaser against the mayor’s office and the Department of Education last fall. Ms. Almontaser said she could not comment on the lawsuit, and her lawyer was unavailable. “They picked this whole fight from day one,” said Rabbi Michael Feinberg, a member of Communities in Support of KGIA, a group devoted to having Ms. Almontaser reinstated as the school principal. “I don’t know if they stalked her or not. But they have been absolutely relentless in the campaign of lies, distortions and calumny to shut down the school and have Debbie step down as principal.” Ms. Alter denied this. “It’s a criminal offense to accuse someone of stalking,” she said. “The reality is we’ve never done that. So we are quite upset.”