Three Teachers Suspended for Pro-Palestinian Speech Sue Maryland School District

9:49 - February 16, 2024
News ID: 3487209
IQNA – A Muslim civil rights group filed a lawsuit on Thursday accusing Montgomery County Public Schools of violating the free speech rights of three teachers who were suspended for expressing support for Palestinians amid the ongoing Israeli onslaught on Gaza.


The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, said the teachers were singled out and punished for their views, while other teachers who expressed opinions on various public issues faced no repercussions. The group also said the school district acted in an abusive and discriminatory manner by publicly condemning the teachers before conducting a proper investigation.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Maryland, names the school district and the board of education as defendants. It seeks unspecified damages and an injunction to stop the district from enforcing what it calls an "illegal, Israel-specific, viewpoint-suppression policy."

The three teachers are Hajur El-Haggan, a Muslim of Egyptian descent who teaches at Wheaton High School; Anike Robinson, who teaches at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School; and Angela Wolf, who teaches at Takoma Park Middle School. All three have been suspended since late 2023, pending the outcome of an internal investigation, according to the lawsuit.

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El-Haggan was suspended in August 2023 after she added the phrase "From the river to sea, Palestine will be free" to her email signature, the lawsuit said.

Robinson and Wolf were suspended in December 2023 after they posted messages on social media that criticized Israel's actions and expressed solidarity with Palestinians, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said the school district violated the teachers' First Amendment rights by restricting their speech based on its content and viewpoint. It also said the district discriminated against the teachers based on their religion, national origin and political affiliation.

"The teachers expressed themselves in the same ways they and their colleagues had about other topics," the lawsuit said. "But through these suspensions, the Board of Education and MCPS are pursuing an illegal, Israel-specific, viewpoint-suppression policy it has not adopted for any other matter of public concern."

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CAIR said the suspensions were part of a broader pattern of anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian bias in the United States. The group said it received 3,578 complaints of discrimination and harassment against Muslims and Palestinians in the last quarter of 2023, a sharp increase from previous periods.

"No teacher should fear punishment for peacefully advocating for their beliefs, regardless of the topic," said Zanah Ghalawanji, a staff attorney for CAIR. "We call on the Montgomery County Board of Education to uphold the values of inclusivity and diversity by respecting the rights of all educators to engage in open dialogue without fear of reprisal."


Source: Agencies