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Teacher Placed on Leave for Email Signature Supporting Palestinians

The Council on American-Islamic Relations filed an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) race and religious discrimination complaint on behalf of Hajur El-Haggan. El-Haggan teaches middle school math in the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in Maryland. El-Haggan, an Arab-American Muslim woman, recently added "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" to her email signature. She stated this phrase is a “call for Palestinian freedom, dignity, and self-determination.” The slogan is often viewed as antisemitic by Jewish groups because terrorist organizations use the slogan to support their mission to eradicate Israel and the Jewish people.

The school district’s posted policy for email best practices asks employees to use professional email signatures and avoid “special stationery, quotations or sayings as part of or following an employee’s email signature.” El-Haggan alleges in her complaint that the school district did not enforce this policy against her colleagues who participated in similar conduct supporting other groups. The EEOC complaint includes pictures of other employees' email signatures with political and social justice quotes and links to topics such as Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ rights. Per the complaint, MCPS has not taken any adverse action against another employee for political speech. At a news conference regarding the complaint, El-Haggan said she offered to remove the phrase from her signature, but the county kept her on administrative leave anyway. She has not heard anything further from the school district. MCPS told CNN it was investigating this personnel matter.

CAIR stated it has received more than 200 bias incident reports from Muslims and Arabs just in Maryland since October 7, when Hamas invaded Israel.