Muslim teacher fired after showing Malala video

Sireen Hashem says she was wrongfully fired after administrators at school banned her from mentioning Islam

Web Desk December 18, 2015
A file photo of Malala Yousufzai. PHOTO: REUTERS

A Muslim teacher is suing her former colleagues after claiming she was wrongfully fired after administrators at the school where she taught banned her from mentioning Islam.

Sireen Hashem says she follows the same curriculum as other teachers at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in New Jersey. However, Hashem came under fire for showing students a video of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai.

Hashem was one of the multiple teachers who showed the clip to students in the classroom. Upon request from another teacher, Hashem has also translated an interview with a schoolbook’s Palestinian subject.

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Unlike her colleagues though, Hashem was fired from school, purportedly over her lesson plans. Hashem, who describes herself as a ‘Muslim American of Palestinian descent,’ says she was forbidden from mentioning Islam or the Middle East during her history classes after local religious leaders and parents made complaints about her to school administrators.

Hashem filed a suit against her past employers in December 2014 according to which her suffering with the school administrators began soon after she became a full-time teacher in September 2013: parents perceived a more political nature into the video when she played it in class, however, it went unnoticed when a colleague, Lindsay Wagner played the same video for her students.

“[Principal] Suzanne Cooley received a complaint from the parent of a student about plaintiff’s use of the Malala Yusufzai video during a lesson,” Hashem’s suit reads. Her supervisor allegedly “told plaintiff she could not teach current events in the same manner as her non-Arab, non-Palestinian and non-Muslim colleagues.”

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During a later meeting with the district’s superintendent, Cristina Steffner, Hashem says she pointed out that her colleague had played “the same video and it was not a problem,” the suit reads. “Defendant Steffner slammed her hand on the table and said, ‘You are not Lindsay.’ Unlike Plaintiff, Lindsay Wagner is not Arab, not Palestinian and not Muslim.”

Since the incident, complaints against Hashem began to pile up, including claims that suggested Hashem was trying to instruct students with anti-Semitic views prompting another meeting with the school administrators during which they allegedly they allegedly "accused her of discriminating against Jewish students, and also questioned her about her place of birth, her family, and her personal life.”

Moreover, “a local Rabbi and several parents contacted the high school administration, including defendants Cooley and Steffner, and Defendant Board of Education in an attempt to have plaintiff removed from her teaching position, solely because of her heritage and religion,” Hashem claims.

According to the lawsuit by April 2015, the school district had laid the groundwork for Hashem’s removal from the school.

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Despite support from students and parents, Hashem’s appeal to have her contract renewed failed in May 2015.

Hasem also claims she has been harassed by the FBI since then. According to the lawsuit, in July, two FBI officers appeared at her door.

Meanwhile, some students continue to  defend their former teacher online.

"Hunterdon Central lost an amazing teacher over false comments a student in my class made,” one student wrote on Hashem’s RateMyTeacher page. “[H]er firing was a huge mistake and any school who hires her next should consider themselves lucky.”

This article originally appeared on THE DAILY BEAST


no | 6 years ago | Reply i think the teacher was wrong
ask | 6 years ago | Reply @Trump: But isn't that the truth, that you are rapidly emulating your "enemies" who you may term, rightly or wrongly, as bad?
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