The former Enloe High School teacher who invited to his class a speaker who denounced Islam as a religion of violence, making national headlines, lobbied Monday to get his job back.
Robert Escamilla, the teacher, met with Wake County school board members to appeal a decision by Superintendent Del Burns to transfer Escamilla from Enloe and issue a 12-page reprimand.
Escamilla wants to be reassigned to Enloe. But his primary goal is to remove stains from his professional record.
About 70 people chanted "Free Esco now" at a rally Monday afternoon outside the district's offices. "We hope and pray it's [the board's decision] the right thing," Escamilla told the crowd. "If it's not the right thing, then we'll have to do some praying for them. I have no plans to roll over and lie down."
Several current and former Enloe students came to Escamilla's defense Monday. Five spoke to the board, including one who is Muslim and came from New York. In support, they set up a Web site, www.robertescamilla.com.
"He's a great teacher," said Earl Quiller, 18, an Enloe senior who spoke to the board. "I don't know why they want to get rid of him."
In February, Escamilla received permission from the school to invite Kamil Solomon, an Egyptian-born Christian who lives in Raleigh, to speak to about 300 Enloe students.
Solomon said he was persecuted for his religious beliefs by the Egyptian government. He also denounced Islam as a religion of violence and distributed pamphlets. One called the Prophet Muhammad a "criminal," "demon possessed" and "inspired by Satan." Another was titled "Do Not Marry A Muslim Man."
After complaints about Solomon's talk, school officials suspended Escamilla, a social studies teacher, with pay for 90 days. They later transferred him to Mary Phillips High School, an alternative school, and put a reprimand and negative performance review in his file.
"I think the school made the right decision," said Tariq Butt, an Enloe parent who had complained about the speaker. "It was fair and balanced. They didn't completely fire him."
School officials didn't comment on Monday's proceedings, saying it was a personnel matter. On the advice of his lawyer, Escamilla declined to sign a form allowing the district to comment.
But the school board may vote to discuss Escamilla's case publicly if it thinks not doing so would hurt the district's integrity.
The board panel -- Beverley Clark, Patti Head and Susan Parry -- had a closed meeting. It has 10 business days to decide on the grievance.
Quiller, one of the students who heard Solomon, said there was nothing offensive in the talk. He said Solomon urged the students to love Muslims.
But some parents and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national Muslim advocacy group, complained about Solomon's remarks. So did the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Media outlets across the world reported the controversy. Christian groups rallied behind Escamilla; Muslim groups said it proved bias against their religion. (MORE)