A federal appeals court panel Tuesday grilled city lawyers over the way officials handled the ouster of the principal of a controversial Arabic-language school.
Judge Jon Newman wondered if the city had overreacted when it forced Debbie Almontaser to quit after she tried to define the Arabic word intifadeh for a New York Post reporter.
"So, if a city employee speaks to the press, they're at risk that the press garbles their remarks and then they get fired?" Newman asked city attorney Drake Colley. "That's quite a position for the city of New York."
Almontaser sued the city last year, claiming her free speech rights were violated when she was forced out as principal of Brooklyn's Khalil Gibran International Academy in August.
In December, Manhattan Federal Judge Sidney Stein tossed out Almontaser's suit, saying her free speech rights were not violated because she was acting as a school employee when she made the comments.
The Post tried to link Almontaser to a Muslim girls' group distributing T-shirts that read "Intifada NYC." Almontaser said she was trying to explain that the root translation of intifadeh is the "shaking off" of oppression.