EEOC Concludes NYC Ed. Dept Discriminated Against Almontaser

March 25, 2010

Almontasser, founding principal of the Khalil Gibran Academy
Almontasser, founding principal of the Khalil Gibran Academy

The MPAC-NYC community welcomed a recent ruling by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) which found that the New York City Department of Education  discriminated against Debbie Almontaser, the founding principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy in 2007. Almontasser was forced by resign her post following a highly politicized and baseless attack by Islamophobes, led by Daniel Pipes.

SEE: Federal Panel Finds Bias in Ouster of Principal (New York Times)

The New York City Department of Education (DOE) yesterday notified the EEOC that it is unwilling to engage in a process of conciliation concerning the EEOC's finding that the DOE discriminated against Debbie Almontaser when it forced her to resign as acting principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy. 

The EEOC's ruling on March 9, 2010 had given the DOE until March 24 to indicate whether it would work with Ms. Almontaser's lawyers and the EEOC to reach a "just resolution" of her claim.  Within hours of receiving the EEOC's ruling, the DOE responded that it had "in no way discriminated against Ms. Almontaser and she will not be reinstated." 

Commenting on the DOE's unwillingness to engage in conciliation, Cynthia Rollings, one of Ms. Almontaser's lawyers, said: "Given the DOE's dismissive response to the EEOC ruling, we were not surprised to learn that the DOE now says it is unwilling to engage in conciliation. The response is clearly prompted by considerations having nothing to do with the substance of the EEOC Determination."

Ms. Almontaser's lawyers announced that they intend to bring a lawsuit based on Ms. Almontaser's discrimination claim.  In addition, as a result of the DOE's refusal to conciliate, the EEOC has referred the case to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to consider whether it, too, will bring a court action against the DOE. 

In its letter spelling out its ruling, the EEOC stated that the NYC Department of Education (DOE) had discriminated against Almontaser, a Muslim of Yemeni descent, "on account of her race, religion, and national origin."

The commission went on to state that the NYC DOE "succumbed to the very bias that the creation of the school was intended to dispel and that a small segment of the public succeeded in imposing its prejudices on DOE as an employer."

Commenting on the Commission's finding, Alan Levine, an attorney for Almontaser, said:

"Debbie Almontaser was victimized twice. First, when she was subjected to an ugly smear campaign orchestrated by anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigots, and second, when the DOE capitulated to their bigotry. But the bigots didn't have the power to take her job away. The DOE did. To its everlasting shame, the DOE did the bigots' work.  Now, the EEOC has reminded us that it is the responsibility of government to stand up to the forces of discrimination, not to give into them."

- Dalia Mahmoud

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