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

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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.

Leyla Halwa
Ariel Eure

Craig Sellers, Head of Friends Central School

The controversy over the canceled talk evoked considerable local news coverage and comment.

Sa’ed Atshan, Assistant Professor, Swarthmore College.



(More background on the case is in previous posts, here.)

Judge Tucker ruled that two of the charges failed to meet the defendants’ challenge, and were dismissed.

Plaintiff’s attorney Mark Schwartz told this blog that “I am pleased that the Judge has refused to dismiss the case, overwhelmingly reaffirming what was pled. It takes a certain special arrogance for a school, with the professed values that FCS says it maintains, to claim that it is not subject to the civil rights laws.”


Sa’ed Atshan, the Swarthmore professor whose FCS talk was canceled in 2017, said on his Facebook page that:

”l am heartbroken that this is happening with a Quaker school but I hope it will create space for our community to reflect on how no institution is immune from discrimination. I am also so inspired by Ariel and Layla’s strength of character and perseverance. Holding them in the Light as this case continues to unfold.”

Attorney Dee Spagnuolo, representing FCS, read a statement on August 7. asserting that the initial complaint “lacked merit,” and expressed confidence that further review “will find the remaining claims are equally meritless.”

“Throughout the events in question the school has engaged in thorough and thoughtful Quaker decision making,” Spagnuolo continued. “The school remains committed to building and maintaining an inclusive and diverse community delivering an education that is intellectual, thoughtful and respects a wide range of viewpoints and experiences.”

5 thoughts on “UPDATED: Friends Central School Discrimination Lawsuit: Fired Teachers Win the First Round”

  1. So why are these called “Quaker Schools”? (please don’t tell me the cannard that the “Board” is 50% or more Quakers).

    I taught in many schools at different academic levels. Never once did I even see or hear from a “Board Member” except when I led the formation of an AAUP chapter at a state technical college in Ohio: https://www.aaup.org/about-aaup) Otherwise, Just students and their parents… .

  2. I am sad and embarrassed as aMember of the Society of Friends that these are the actions of a Quaker School. If one reads between the lines, the speech as cancelled because certain donors to the School were offended. Then the women were fired!
    How can this happen ?

    My Grandpa was kicked out of Central Friends. I don’t know why, but I’m glad. A privileged young man ended up in Public School n

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