Parents call emergency meeting to protest Khalil Gibran "Jihad" School concern over "girls in burkas" and "overcrowding"
May 14, 2007
Arab School To Face Scrutiny At Emergency Parent Meeting
By SARAH GARLAND
The Arabic theme of a new public school may be a point of contention at an emergency parent meeting called tonight at the Brooklyn high school slated to house the new school.
The Khalil Gibran International Academy, which is named after a Lebanese Christian philosopher, was originally planned for an elementary school in Park Slope, P.S. 282. Those plans were abandoned after parents protested about overcrowding.
But opponents at the school's proposed new home, a Dean Street school building that currently holds the Brooklyn High School of the Arts and the Math and Science Exploratory School, a middle school, may also raise concerns about the school's focus on Arabic language and culture. Parents have said they are frustrated that they were not consulted before the department made an announcement about the school's planned location in their building, which some say is too crowded to house it.
A parent of a seventh grader at the middle school, Katia Lief, said she is concerned about the school's theme, which has prompted criticism that the school could foster extremist political and religious views.
"I personally don't understand how they're separating culture from religion," Ms. Lief, a writer, said. "It's not racism, it's concern for the integrity of a secular school system. … I think they're going to be funding a cultural-religious school. I think it's inevitable."
The school will be located in a neighborhood heavily populated by Arab Americans. Ms. Lief said she worried that the school population would end up becoming mostly "girls in burkas," and would further isolate a community that is already marginalized.
"Once you form a school that is based on one specific culture you're ghettoizing a group of people," Ms. Lief said.
The Department of Education, in a statement, repeated past assurances that the school would be secular.
"The school is not a vehicle for religious ideology and if it shows indications of becoming one, we will close it," the statement said. Any student can apply to the school.
A department spokeswoman, Melody Meyer, said the department was confident there is room for the third school in the new building location, which has a capacity of 1,900. She said department officials had met with the parent leadership and administrators at both schools before the announcement was made last week.
The high school is expected to enroll 762 students next year, while the middle school is expected to enroll 458. That leaves about 680 open seats for Khalil Gibran, which is expected to enroll 60 sixth graders in its first year.
MIM: For a compilation of articles on the Khalil Gibran School which appeared in the New York Sun see http://www.nysun.com/specials/gibran.php
Parents protest site for Arabic language school
BY TANYANIKA SAMUELS
Posted Saturday, May 12th 2007, 4:00 AM
For the second time, a proposed Arabic language academy is being rebuffed by parents at a school chosen to house it.
Parents at the topnotch Math and Science Exploratory School in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, have called an "emergency PTA meeting" for Monday over plans to put the Khalil Gibran International Academy at its campus at 345 Dean St.
"Our issue is not with the substance of the school. It's with the space," said PTA Vice President Thomas McMahon. "If those concerns could be met, we are willing to work to make the new school a success."
"There's definitely a space issue," agreed Katia Lief, who has a seventh-grader at the well-regarded middle school. "This can cause overcrowding and chaos. If parents can be heard, maybe there can be some kind of result."
Department of Education representatives are expected to attend Monday's meeting.
The academy originally was slated to share the campus of Public School 282 in Park Slope. But parents there also protested, citing a space crunch.
Education officials last week pulled the program from PS 282, then on Wednesday, announced the new Boerum Hill site, which also houses the Brooklyn High School of the Arts.
The academy is to open in September with up to 60 sixth-graders. In announcing the new site, education officials said they were "confident" all three schools could share the campus.