Federal appeals judges yesterday made comments suggesting they thought the city overreacted in its handling of the resignation of the principal of its first Arabic-themed public school as they heard arguments aimed at letting her get her job back.
Two members of the three-judge panel were sharply critical of the way the city reacted to a newspaper interview Debbie Almontaser conducted before she stepped down in August as interim principal at the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn.
City lawyer Drake Colley conceded that what Almontaser said in the interview was correct and that a Department of Education spokesperson who monitored the interview thought it went well.
Judge Jon Newman asked: "Does the city really think she was properly disciplined?" Drake said the city handled the case as it did because the Brooklyn school was a lightning rod for negative press and because of a potential for disruption that was fueled by her comments.
Almontaser, a longtime New York educator and a Muslim of Yemeni descent, said she was forced to resign because of criticism she endured after discussing in the interview the word "intifada," an Arabic term commonly used to refer to the Palestinian uprising against Israel. (MORE)