Tuesday, October 23, 2007

[wvns] Teacher Sues Khalil Gibran School

Sara Springer, Active in Opposition Group, Fears Link to`Terrorist Cells'

Brooklyn Teacher Joins Lawsuit Targeting Khalil Gibran School
by Mary Frost (mfrost @ brooklyneagle.net)
October 23, 2007

[NOTE: The David Project is involved in this, very much like their
crusade against the Boston mosque. Apparently they have found another
willing stooge to use the legal system to harass Arab Americans.]

BROOKLYN — Sara Springer, a Brooklyn teacher who is one of the
founders of the "Stop the Madrassa Coalition," a group long opposed to
New York City's first Arabic-themed school — the Khalil Gibran
International Academy in Boerum Hill — has joined a lawsuit against
the New York City Department of Education (DOE), claiming that the
agency failed to respond adequately to a request for information about
the school's textbooks and curriculum.

Springer and other members of the coalition, including the group's
Brooklyn-born president Stuart Kaufman, fear that textbooks and other
teaching materials will be supplied by the Saudi-tied Council on
Islamic Education, and that taxpayer dollars will be supporting
"terrorist cells."

"In this kind of insulated environment there is too great an
opportunity for people with ulterior motives to inculcate our children
with anti-western values," Kaufman told the Brooklyn Eagle Monday.

"Ms. Almontaser at her press conference accused us of stalking her –
we have stalked nobody," Kaufman said. "We're the ones who are called
racist, participants in high-tech lynchings, and called intolerant. We
are just expressing fears that are founded in reality and we refuse to
be victims."

According to a release sent out Monday by the Stop the Madrassa
Community Coalition, the group wants the Department of Education to
provide a complete list of the textbooks, lesson plans and design
documents to be used at the Khalil Gibran school.

As reported in the Brooklyn Eagle last July, Stop the Madrassa sent a
Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request letter to Gov. Eliot
Spitzer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Chancellor Joel Klein and other city
and state officials. The letter requested release of 14 categories of
documents concerning Khalil Gibran, which opened in September after
months of controversy.

The action taken last week is an Article 78 proceeding in state
Supreme Court, a type of lawsuit used to challenge action (or
inaction) by agencies and officers of state and local government.
Connie Pankratz, a spokesperson for the New York City Law Department,
told the Brooklyn Eagle Monday, "We've just received the legal
documents and are currently reviewing them."

Painting the School as `Islamist'
The "Stop the Madrassa" group which – according to the New York Sun,
includes roughly 70 community members, some parents and at least one
city teacher – has repeatedly attempted to link the planned
Arabic-themed school to various terrorist organizations.

However, supporters of Khalil Gibran, such as the Rabbi Michael
Feinberg of the Greater NY Labor-Religion Coalition, claim that the
Stop the Madrassa organization itself is backed "by extremist
right-wing organizations such as the Gathering of Eagles; NY-ICE (New
Yorkers for Immigration Control and Enforcement) and the United
American Committee."

Melody Meyer, spokesperson for the Department of Education, told the
Eagle Monday that as a policy of the DOE, "We don't comment on pending

But about the group that brought the lawsuit, she said, "All you need
to know about Stop the Madrassa is that the lawyer who represents them
has a Web site that rejects democracy and suggests that America has
declined because it has become less white."

Much of the Requested Information Published in Brooklyn Eagle
At the time of the original FOIL request in July, Sara Springer, a
Brooklyn resident who is a member of the coalition, issued a statement
saying, "To date, despite numerous requests, the city has provided no
explanation to members of the coalition or the public at large about
the precise nature of the curricula, the textbooks that will be used,
the publishers of those texts, or the lesson plans."

While the full extent of the group's request for information was not
received by press time, it appears that much of the information
requested was published in the Brooklyn Eagle in July (see below). At
that time, DOE's Meyer detailed the curriculum, textbooks and teacher
certification process used by the Khalil Gibran school for this paper.

Almontaser, the founder of the school, has said she was pressured into
resigning on August 10 after not immediately condemning another
organization's use of the phrase "IntifadaNYC" on T-shirts. This
followed a rising crescendo of attacks on the school — and on
Almontaser herself — from the Stop the Madrassa group and conservative
Web sites and newspapers, including the New York Sun and the New York

After Almontaser's resignation, the city Department of Education
appointed Danielle Salzberg as interim principal of the school.
Almontaser, who wishes to be reinstated as principal of Khalil Gibran,
has indicated that she may file a lawsuit against the DOE.

Curriculum, Textbooks and Teacher Certification Process
In July, the Department of Education provided the Brooklyn Eagle with
the following information:

"The school has chosen from curricula that has been approved and
designated for New York City public schools," DOE spokesperson Melody
Meyer told the Brooklyn Eagle. "For math, they've ordered Impact Math;
for science, they've chosen Option C, published by Harcourt. In
humanities, they're using the Social Studies Module approved for the
6th grade. They're also using the Teachers' College Reading and
Writing Workshops, and they've ordered the Arabic Language Library
from Scholastic, which translates English children's books into Arabic."

In a nutshell, "They're using the same curriculum packages as other
New York City public schools," Meyer said.

As to the teacher certification question, Meyer said that Principal
Debbie Almontaser had been "hiring teachers through the summer. She's
hired two Arab-Americans, plus Irish, Greek, Jewish and West Indian
teachers — certainly a diverse group."

All of the teachers are certified, Meyer said. While New York State
"doesn't offer certificates in Arab-language instruction, all of the
teachers are certified including the Arab-language teachers — one in
math, the other in humanities."



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