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