Category Archives: Quaker Schools

Breaking: Friends Central School, Fired teachers, Settle lawsuit.

This just in: a lawsuit filed against Friends Central School (FCS) in Philadelphia in 2017 by two teachers who were fired after a Palestinian speaker they invited in February 2017 was disinvited by school officials. The order of settlement is below. (More text follows.)

The speaker, Sa’ed Atshan, teaches at Swarthmore College. FCS Students protested, walked out, were ignored. The Philadelphia Daily News slammed the administration action:

Philadelphia Daily News: Friends’ Central lacks integrity in shunning controversial speaker

“ANOTHER WEEK, another hit delivered to free speech, this one coming from an unexpected source – a Quaker school.

Ariel Eure, former teacher at Friends community School.
Leila Helwa, former teacher, Friends Central School.

Last week, the head of Friends’ Central School, a Quaker private school in Wynnewood, uninvited a Palestinian who had been asked to speak by a student club. Students protested that decision, in part by walking out of an all-school gathering. This week, head of school Craig N. Sellers suspended two faculty advisers to the student group, saying – in effect – that they were inside agitators who had whipped up the student protest.

Or, as Sellers put it in a statement, the teachers disregarded “our guiding testimonies, which include community, peace and integrity.”

We see it differently. In our view, it was Sellers who disrupted the peace of the Friends’ Central community. And you can hardly call the muzzling of an invited speaker an example of integrity.”

Sa’ed Atshan, Swarthmore College Peace & Conflict Studies Assistant Professor.

The ex-teachers filed a lawsuit on May 7, 2017, charging discrimination and defamation. The school’s lawyers sneered at the lawsuit in their initial filing, insisting there was nothing to it. But the judge jolted them in August 2019 by denying their dismissal motion.

Mark Schwartz, plaintiffs’ attorney.

The teachers’ attorney, Mark Schwartz, filed for many documents to begin discovery. At some point, the school chose to negotiate, and the settlement was entered earlier this month, more than three years after it was filed.

The terms of the settlement were not announced. Schwartz’s full statement in response to my query was: “NDA.” That is, “nondisclosure agreement.” I speculate that it was a generous amount of money, enough to move the plaintiffs to agree to keep quiet about it.

In the world of employment lawsuits, such settlements are generally counted as a qualified success: at least the plaintiffs have something for their trouble, and interrupted or terminated career.


For the record: Here is a list of the blog posts on the Friends Central School lawsuit:

A Letter to Students at Friends Central School: Resist! 02/14/2017

Breaking: Friends Central School Officials Issue New Statement; Backpedaling? – 02/14/2017

Philly Paper Slams Friends Central School: “Lacks Integrity” 02/15/2017

Friends Central School Free Speech Case: Negotiations On? 02/21/2017

Update: Friends Central School Fires Teachers Who Invited Palestinian Speaker; Invites Him Back – 05/12/2017

The Talk They Did NOT Hear at Friends Central School . . . 05/29/2018

Dandruff on the Boss’s shoulder: Friends Central School Strikes Back   – 07/06/2018

Friends Central School Lawsuit: The Fired Teachers Begin to Make Their Case, 8/7/2018

Friends Central School Discrimination Lawsuit: Fired Teachers Win the First Round – 8/7/2019

UPDATED: Friends Central School Discrimination Lawsuit: Fired Teachers Win the First Round

[Scroll down for updates.]

On August 2, federal judge Petrese B. Tucker issued a decision on a motion to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit filed in July 2018 by two former teachers at Philadelphia’s Friends Central School (FCS).

U.S. Judge Petrese Tucker

The teachers, Ariel Eure and Layla Helwa, were suspended in February 2017, and fired in May, after they scheduled a talk at FCS by Sa’ad Atshan, a Palestinian Quaker professor at nearby Swarthmore College. School officials canceled Atshan’s talk.

Tucker’s decision dismissed some of the charges made in the lawsuit, but said others were credible and litigation on them could go forward.

The fired teachers’ lawsuit made six accusations. It named school officials and board members as defendants.

Continue reading UPDATED: Friends Central School Discrimination Lawsuit: Fired Teachers Win the First Round

Friends Seminary – Fired Teacher Will Return

A normally reliable source has furnished me a copy of a letter from the Principal of Friends Seminary (or FS)  in New York City,  announcing that “In late January we will welcome Ben Frisch back into the classroom.” (I called FS to ask about it; as of this writing, there was no response.) The full text of the letter is below.

If you don’t know, Ben Frisch is the Quaker teacher at Friends Seminary (“the”, as in THE only Quaker teacher almost a year ago, when this story began), who was abruptly fired last March.

He  got the boot after making a clumsy joke in a geometry class about how his raised arm, illustrating an obtuse angle, was like a “Heil Hitler” salute.

Frisch is about as far from being “Nazi friendly” as you could want. Although he’s a longtime Quaker, his ancestors were European and Jewish, and some were lost in the Holocaust. He doesn’t need a “diversity officer” to brief him on all that. Nevertheless, he was canned within a couple weeks. In a letter to students, the principal, Bo Lauter, wrote, “Our students know that words and signs of hate and fear have no place at Friends . . . .” Continue reading Friends Seminary – Fired Teacher Will Return