ARABIC PRINCIPAL LOSES RETURN BID
By KATI CORNELL
The ousted principal who made statements defending the use of the slogan “Intifada NYC” on T-shirts won’t be getting her old job back, after a federal judge rejected her bid to stop the city from hiring a replacement. Manhattan federal Judge Sidney Stein ruled that Debbie Almontaser was not protected by a constitutional right to free speech when she defined the term “intifada” as “shaking off oppression” in response to a Post reporter’s questions about the T-shirts.
Founder and former acting principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn, Almontaser sparked a firestorm of public criticism with her statements, prompting Mayor Bloomberg’s office to seek her immediate resignation in August.
Almontaser filed a lawsuit last month requesting that the judge stop the city’s hiring process and put the decision in the hands of a “disinterested” party, rather than the superintendent of District 15 and Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein.
Stein rejected that request and said that Almontaser’s claims that she suffered retaliation by the city were unsupported by evidence at a two-day hearing this week.
“The speech is not protected,” Stein said, adding that Almontaser spoke to The Post in her official capacity as a public employee, not as a private citizen.
Almontaser is allowed to go forward with her lawsuit for emotional harm and breach of contract, though the judge said it is unlikely she will succeed in proving the merits of the case.
In testimony this week, Almontaser denied having any affiliation with the T-shirts or the organization that produced them and blamed everyone from the media to the mayor for jeopardizing her career.
“I’m disappointed. I think the judge was wrong,” Almontaser’s lawyer, Alan Levine, said outside court. “What he said about her speech could ultimately be very damaging to her case.”