BECK: Coming up, the new report by the NYPD`s intelligence arm. It seems to indicate that home-grown terror clusters are an active threat to us here in America. Who would have known? You know, the crazy conspiracy guy, or just a thinker? I`m just saying. That`s tonight`s “Real Story” in just a bit.But first, ding dong, the witch is dead. After an incredible grass roots campaign by concerned parents and New York City taxpayers, the controversial principal of an Arab language school has been forced to resign. But a lot of people, including me, are wondering if that`s enough.
I`ve been telling you about this story from the beginning. This Kahlil Gibran International Academy is an all-Arab language school, and it seems beyond reasonable to point out the numerous glaring and obvious political and religious problems with such a publicly funded institution. We`re talking New York tax dollars here.
The former principal and devout Islamist, Debbie Almontaser, sealed her fate when she supported and sanctioned the sale of T-shirts to young girls that read “Intifada New York”. Interesting choice of school uniforms, I guess.
The zealot`s (ph) replacement is Danielle Salzberg. She is a non-Arab speaker who grew up in an orthodox Jewish home. And while that may seem like a radical about-face from her predecessor, it`s important to understand that Salzberg has been involved in the school`s development from the very beginning.
She is a past colleague of the woman who defended the sale of the T- shirts to children, emblazoned with hate speech. How can she be any better? Will the new leader of a fatally flawed institution make any real difference at all?
Even though the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, supports the existence of this school, it seems that, thankfully, the public has finally waken up and thinking straight. Common sense isn`t dead yet in America, it seems.
As of right now the school only has five teachers. It`s 25 percent undersubscribed by students. And an America Online poll, which is highly unscientific, found that over 80 percent of the public unsympathetic to this school. We can only hope that the New York City Board of Education eventually does the right thing and pulls the plug on this fundamentally bad idea.
Pamela Hall is the lead organizer of Stop the Madrasah Coalition, and Elizabeth Green is a reporter for the “New York City Sun”.
Pamela, let me start with you. Tell me about the T-shirts. You were the person that actually took a picture of the T-shirts. What is the connection to the T-shirts, to the principal and what was her explanation?
PAMELA HALL, STOP THE MADRASAH COALITION: Well, her explanation was unacceptable, and that`s why she`s gone, which was that it just, Intifada just means shaking off. There`s no violence connected to the word and that we should all learn to understand the word differently and nothing to do with murdering of children in Israel.
And that outrageous explanation revealed what we know about her, that she`s apologist and an Islamist. And we must understand more about what they intend to teach at that school, since they will not reveal the curricula. And that still stays a problem.
BECK: OK. All right. Now you have an Orthodox Jew that is replacing her. What is your problem with her?
HALL: Exactly what you said. She was an associate of Almontaser. She has been with her all along, developing this curricula, hiring the teachers, working with the community that is the Muslim Arab community.
Where is the representation for the Coptic and Maronite and the Sephardic Arab speakers of that region? How are they going to teach about those people? The region is not just Arab speakers who are Muslim.
There`s a lot that has not been answered. And we want it answered.
BECK: Elizabeth, I`ve been following your writing for a while in the “Sun”, and I think the “Sun” is just a fantastic newspaper that is doing a great service to this community.
ELIZABETH GREEN, “NEW YORK CITY SUN”: Thanks.
BECK: What is the biggest threat that you see from this school? Why should people pay attention to this? Why is this not just another school?
GREEN: The interesting public policy question, I think, is about whether — about culturally themed schools in general. And this is not the first culturally themed public school in New York City. There`s several others that teach in both Chinese and English, their classes, or another is opening up this year with a Caribbean cultural theme.
So the public policy question is really about whether it`s appropriate for an American public school to focus closely on one specific culture.
BECK: But you haven`t been able to see any of the textbooks. Have you ever had heard anything from the Department of Education? Have they explained what`s going to be taught here?
GREEN: They have. The school is going to have a standard curriculum, just like other schools, except for a few different electives.
I looked at a document, a proposal for the school. It lists the only differences from a regular public school are Arabic language classes.
GREEN: And cultural classes like Arab dance, Arab music.
BECK: OK. So, Pam, besides the cultural aspect, which I don`t think they should — we`re in America. Let`s unite, instead of — stop separating — you know, and stop separating ourselves. But besides that argument, Elizabeth just says that she has seen the curricula. What`s missing here?
HALL: Because she hasn`t seen the curricula. We filed our Freedom of Information legal briefs, and they still have not revealed the real legal documents that tell us what they`re actually teaching.
What she read was a document that was released to Stop the Madrasah, which was an executive summary, which was a proposal that was given, and a hypothetical type of instruction that would happen at the school.
They have yet to reveal the real curricula. They just keep telling us it`s a public school, and they will teach according to those guidelines.
But Mayor Bloomberg gives the principal autonomy. She is creating, along with Salzberg and the other associates, they are creating a curricula they will not reveal. And we want to know why are they hiding it, since they were supposed to have revealed it.
BECK: Elizabeth, what I — what brought my attention to this story months and months ago in the “Sun” was the fact that the former principal, the one that just resigned, would not go on record saying who was responsible for 9/11. Wouldn`t name Hamas or Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
Have you followed up on this new principal? Do you know anything about — about her on these subjects?
GREEN: The new principal is not talking to the press right now. But we do know that she came from the public school system. She worked there for over ten years. She then worked for a nonprofit called New Visions for Public Schools, which was helping the school get set up.
She — there`s a lot of new small schools in New York City. And this is one of many new small schools. She`s helped start several schools in the city. That`s what she`s doing now.
GREEN: I know that her father told me that her politics are liberal. That`s all I know.
BECK: OK. Pam, the — there`s lots of Muslim clerics that are onboard — on the board of this school. Right or wrong?
HALL: Very wrong. This is a public school. Where are the academic advisers…
BECK: No, I`m asking, are there Muslim clerics on the board?
HALL: Excuse me. Yes, there are. And it is a religious advisory board that has not been changed. So Salzberg will be advised by the imam. It`s a very imam heavy board. And they will be advising her on how to run this school.
BECK: OK. Thank you very much.