Yesterday, Judge Sidney H. Stein of Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled against Debbie Almontaser, the former principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, New York’s first Arabic-themed school, in Brooklyn. Debbie was pressured to step down after her discussion of the word “intifada” during a press conference in August. The word had been used on a t-shirt, and she was being criticized for her lack of condemnation of the word.
The judge claimed that since she was being interviewed as the school principle and her employers were responsible for upholding the public image of the school, her speech was not protected under the first amendment.
Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union said, “This is just another example of how recent Supreme Court rulings are undermining constitutional rights in general and First Amendment rights in particular.”
Yes, she has the RIGHT to say what she said, but she also has the responsibility to uphold the public image of the school. This is exactly the same as Don Imus and the “Taser This: Bush!” editor-in-chief of the Rocky Mountain Collegian, David McSwane (https://inkslwc.wordpress.com/2007/09/28/student-editor-should-be-fired-for-printing-taser-this-fk-bush/).
Don Imus had the RIGHT to say what he said, but CBS had the obligation to fire him because of 1) their public image and 2) the fact that their advertisers were pulling out.
The Editor-in-chief: he had the RIGHT to publish the ” Bush” letter to the editor, but at the point that advertisers started pulling out, his lack of judgment was seen and he was justly fired.
The same goes here – she had the right to discuss the t-shirts, but when it causes people to look at the school in a worse manner, the school leadership has the responsibility of upholding the school’s image and firing (or urging to step down, as in this case) leaders who show poor judgment.
The lawsuit will go on to a trial, based on further evidence.
Tags: Christopher Dunn, Civil Liberties, Collegian, David McSwane, Debbie Almontaser, First Amendment, Freedom of Speech, Intifada, Khalil Gibran International Academy, Letter to the Editor, Manhattan, New York Civil Liberties Union, press conference, Principal, Rocky Mountain Collegian, School, Sidney Stein, T-shirt, taser