Let me explain. Let's look at the Almontaser case.
By KEVIN ANTHONY STODA, International Educator
Last Monday, it was reported on DEMOCRACY NOW in New York City, that in education news, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled the New York City Department of Education discriminated against the founding principal of an Arabic-language school in Brooklyn by forcing her to resign in 2007. In a non-binding ruling, the commission said the city had discriminated against the principal Debbie Almontaser "on account of her race, religion and national origin." Almontaser is a Muslim of Yemeni descent. Almontaser was forced to resign from the Khalil Gibran International Academy after a campaign by right-wing activists and media outlets. Almontaser has fought to be reinstated to her post for the past three years."
In the media, Debbie Almontaser was shown elaborating, "I'm not just standing up for my own rights, but I'm standing for the rights of Arabs and Muslims across the country. As you can clearly see, the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment that is going around this country is quite startling. And, you know, the fact that we're living in a new McCarthy era is quite, you know, fearful for many people. So I hope that my case will certainly set national and international precedents that Arabs and Muslims cannot be treated in this way."
DO WE NEED THE EEOC PROTECT GOOD TEACHERS EVERYWHERE?
I think that the EEOC will have to function in the future to protect all teachers because most educational organizations have not done so with any strength. This lack of a strong voice has hurt education greatly for over half a century.
Amy Goodman began her interview with this question: "Can you go back in time for us, Debbie Almontaser, and explain what happened--first, about Khalil Gibran, the founding of this school, and how that happened?"
Almontaser replied, "So, Amy, the way that it all came about was New Visions for Public Schools and the Department of Education was interested in creating an Arabic dual language school. They spent six months looking for someone, and every time that they spoke to individuals in city government, at the Department of Education and in the community, everyone referred them to me. They referred them to me because of my work as an educator. I've been in the system now nineteen years. They referred them to me for the bridge-building work that I've been doing between Christians, Jews and Muslims. The incredible inter-faith work that I've been engaged in just showed that I was a perfect candidate for this. And so, New Visions for Public Schools invited me for a meeting. We spent two hours where they were convincing me this is the next step of my career. Shortly after that, I engaged in putting together a design team and, with the help of the community, finding a lead partner. And we ventured on the creation of the school. And the design team that I brought together was as diverse as the City of New York--Christians, Muslims, Jews, Latinos, Asian Americans, African Americans, who were truly, truly engaged and compelled by the mission and vision of such a school and who--some of them wanted their own children to go to this school."
Sadly, long before progressives and centrist Americans understood what a great propaganda campaign we were under in the 1990s, many generations were already suffering--and great American educational visions were being smashed left and right from the 1970s onward across the USA.
Let me explain.
When I was in the fifth grade in a small Missouri town, Wentzville, in the early 1970s, we had a class on Africa, its culture, geography and people once or twice a week. In sixth grade we had a class on Latin America five days a week. By the 1980s, such programs in most cities and towns in America no longer existed.
If we look at the struggles of educators, like that of Almontaser over the last three years, I now personally hope that other American teachers, educators, and other adversely-treated whistleblowers-- & who are unfairly forced to resign--will have the will to persist and outlive their persecutors.
Moreover, with this EEOC decision in hand, they should try and consider not falling on their swords so often in the face of bullying Board of Educations across America [and in the face of Xenophobic or Extremist groupings who are ready to fight and shout-down justice and fairness where it is being supported by educators].
On the other hand, based upon my friends' and my own experiences in Kansas school districts in the 1980s and 1990s, both budding and mature educators need 10,000% more support from the teachers unions, administrators, parents, students, and State Boards of Education [and of State Boards of Equal Opportunities, etc.] across America.
"The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's ruling comes three years into Almontaser's fight for reinstatement. The ruling calls on the Department of Education to reach a "just resolution' in accordance with Almontaser's demands. In addition to reinstatement, she's also seeking back pay, damages and legal costs. But New York City officials are refusing to reverse their stance."
For many decades now, boards of education across the land have been overstepping their bounds and trying to manipulate sound educational principles of inclusiveness and well-rounded educational philosophy due to political (mostly conservative and extremist) ends. Back in the 1980s, an alumni from my alma mater was forced out of her elementary school position in one Kansas town, southeast of Wichita, where she had begun to expand the curriculum to include information on Latin America. [This great young teacher had gone to Nicaragua with Witness for Peace in opposition to U.S. war-making on that country throughout the 1980s. She realized that students at the school and the people in that Kansas town had no real understanding of geography, global politics, and economic history.] Despite being tenured, this great young instructor was forced to resign by the local Board of Education after she had put some powers-that-be on the spot by making her views and voice known in the media, through letters-to-the editor, and elsewhere.