November 20, 2007 / 1:18 AM / 13 years ago

Arabic school founder sues NYC over resignation

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The founder and former head of New York’s first publicly funded Arabic-language school claimed in a lawsuit on Monday the city’s education department wrongly forced her to resign due to negative media coverage.

Debbie Almontaser, who resigned before the school opened in September, said the city violated her free speech rights and her suit seeks unspecified damages for emotional distress and breach of contract.

Almontaser supporters provided a copy of the lawsuit before it was filed at Manhattan federal court. Representatives of the city law department did not immediately comment.

The Khalil Gibran International Academy was built around the theme of Arabic language and Middle Eastern studies, and some media outlets expressed concerns the school could foster anti-American extremism.

Officials at the city’s education department improperly made Almontaser apologize and forced her to resign after she was falsely linked with a group of Muslim artists who printed T-shirts using the word “intifada,” the suit said.

The school was designed to be “rigorously secular,” the suit said. It was named after a Christian Lebanese poet who lived in New York and is one of around 200 small New York City schools specializing in subjects such as science and Russian.

Reporting by Christine Kearney; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Stuart Grudgings

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