CAIR Announces Complaint Against MCPS for Discrimination Against Muslim Arab Middle School Teacher


The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, will be holding a news conference at 10:30am on Friday, December 8 at 10:30am at the corner of the intersection of Hungerford Drive and Manakee Street  in Rockville to announce an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint against Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)

CAIR is alleging discrimination against Hajur El-Haggan, a teacher at Argyle Middle School in Silver Spring who was put on administrative leave in November after putting “From the River to the sea, Palestine will be free”  in her email signature. The complaint also mentions that a Palestinian flag on El-Haggan’s car’s windshield with the text “Free Palestine” was vandalized while in the school’s parking lot. The full complaint can be read here. 

Per CAIR: “CAIR has filed a complaint with the EEOC against MCPS alleging that the school system placed Hajur El-Haggan, a Muslim teacher of Egyptian national origin at Argyle Middle School, on administrative leave because of her email signature tagline, which expressed support for Palestinians.

CAIR’s complaint states in part:

“Until the present situation with Ms. El-Haggan, MCPS had never taken adverse action against any other employee who chose to include political speech in their email signature. Ms. El-Haggan was informed that including any political or non-political quotes in an email signature was against the MCPS Employee Code of Conduct, yet this policy was never enforced against any of Ms. El-Haggan’s colleagues who did the same thing. Moreover, the way Ms. El-Haggan has been treated belies MCPS’s long standing Restorative Justice philosophy and approaches.”  

The complaint further points out that the County’s approach to El-Haggan’s situation “was in direct opposition to their standard approach,” and they did not “approach Ms. El-Haggan for a conversation, mediation, or any attempt at understanding,” concluding that “[t]he way in which Ms. El-Haggan was treated was far from Restorative Justice and is in stark contrast to the county’s regular practices and treatment of other employees.”

READ THE FULL COMPLAINT

“The way Ms. El-Haggan was treated in comparison to her colleagues is a clear example of discrimination. Ms. El-Haggan took part in the same conduct as her colleagues at school and in the county, but she was the only one placed on administrative leave,” said CAIR Pro Bono Attorney Rawda Fawaz. “It is no coincidence that only Ms. El-Haggan, who is visibly Muslim and Arab, was the only one who faced consequences. The discriminatory treatment was so clear, we had no choice but to file a complaint.”

“Preserving the sanctity of education requires safeguarding the right to free sppech in public schools, which is an essential cornerstone for fostering critical thinking, diverse perspectives, and the growth of informed, responsible citizens,” said CAIR’s Maryland Director Zainab Chaudry. “We are committed to protecting these rights for all Americans including those who face unfair retaliation and consequences over their advocacy for basic Palestinian human rights.”

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.”

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