New York: Former Arabic School Principal Faces Defamation Suit

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon May 19 15:16:08 UTC 2008

May 16, 2008,  6:51 pm
Former Arabic School Principal Faces Defamation Suit
By Andrea Elliott

Three opponents of a Brooklyn public school that teaches Arabic filed a
lawsuit on Wednesday against the schools founding principal, Debbie
Almontaser, claiming that she had defamed them by saying that they stalked
her. The plaintiffs, Sara Springer, Irene Alter and Pamela Hall, are
members of the Stop the Madrassa Coalition, a group that has protested the
Khalil Gibran International Academy, which opened in Boerum Hill last
fall. The women, who filed the lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn,
are seeking punitive damages. Ms. Almontaser stepped down as the schools
principal in a firestorm of controversy in August after an article in The
New York Post stated that she had downplayed the significance of T-shirts
bearing the slogan Intifada NYC. Ms. Almontaser said that The Post had
distorted her words and that she had been forced to resign by the mayors

The lawsuit against Ms. Almontaser refers to, among other things, a
statement she made on the steps of City Hall on Oct. 16 in which she said,
Members of the coalition stalked me wherever I went and verbally assaulted
me with vicious anti-Arab and anti-Muslim comments. The suit cites a
nearly identical statement in a complaint filed last fall in federal court
by Ms. Almontaser against the mayors office and the Department of
Education. Ms. Almontaser said she could not comment on the lawsuit, and
her lawyer was unavailable.

Rabbi Michael Feinberg, a member of Communities in Support of KGIA, a
group devoted to having Ms. Almontaser reinstated as the school principal,
said: They picked this whole fight from Day 1. I don't know if they
stalked her or not. But they have been absolutely relentless in the
campaign of lies, distortions and calumny to shut down the school and have
Debbie step down as principal. Ms. Alter denied this. Its a criminal
offense to accuse someone of stalking, she said. The reality is we've
never done that. So we are quite upset.  On Saturday morning, Ms. Alter
clarified her comment, saying that the act of stalking, not the
accusation, is a criminal offense.

This article has been updated to reflect later published versions.


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