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Race and politics mag says Arabic language school still in trouble

From February 2007, when the Department of Education announced it would open a dual-language Arabic-English school, until the end of the school’s first year last June, Khalil Gibran International Academy was wracked by bad news.

Now, partway into the school’s second year, Colorlines, which bills itself as “the national newsmagazine about race and politics,” has taken a look at KGIA’s progress. Sadly, the problems don’t sound like they’ve abated.

From the article:

This past September, many of the original sixth-grade students had not returned as seventh graders. The school has cut back on Arabic language instruction, is no longer set to become a high school and has moved twice in its first year of operation. The founding principal, Debbie Almontaser, was forced to resign following a media storm over the meaning of the word “intifada,” and the school is being led by its third principal. None of the original teachers remain at the school, and those who have left claim they were fired or forced to leave because of the stress.

It came to this, critics say, because the school was targeted by a network of conservative organizations and their media outlets that have long been in the business of attacking educators with any perceived links to Palestine. …

While the idea of sixth graders leading a religious crusade might sound ridiculous, the conservative groups succeeded in their attacks. Today, the school appears mired in an atmosphere of fear, tension and instability.

Originally, KGIA struggled to find a location when the first school assigned to house it rejected the plan. Then, national commentators lined up against the school’s Arabic focus; its founding principal, Debbie Almontaser, resigned under fire after she made statements to the press that some considered offensive; enrollment dropped as parents pulled their kids out; and finally the DOE moved it to a different neighborhood altogether. It currently has 55 students, fewer than it originally plan to have in its first cohort.

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