Lawsuit says student falsely accused teacher of making anti-Semitic remark
By Manya A. Brachear
October 6, 2009"A Palestinian Muslim teacher and former Chicago talk radio show producer filed a federal discrimination suit Monday against Columbia College Chicago, saying she was fired after a student falsely accused her of making an anti-Semitic remark in class.
The suit said the unidentified student complained that Suriya H. Smiley, a part-time radio instructor of Palestinian origin, told him while taking roll one day: "I should have known you were Jewish by the size of your nose." The suit said the college did not investigate the student's allegations before firing Smiley, 44, in January. She had taught at the school for 14 years after working as a producer at WLS-AM.
"The unsubstantiated allegation against, and subsequent firing of, Sue Smiley reeks of racism," said Kevin Vodak, an attorney for the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which filed the suit on Smiley's behalf. "For the school to not investigate the veracity of one person's singular claim before terminating instructor Smiley's job is malicious and irresponsible. It is apparent that she was mistreated based on her Arab ethnicity."
Columbia spokeswoman Elizabeth Burke-Dain said the college does not comment on personnel matters.
Vodak said the student's motives for making the allegation remain unclear. He said Smiley believed she had "criticized his performance in the proper manner."
The council's Chicago chapter has filed at least five workplace-discrimination suits this year. In July, a Cook County judge awarded $200,000 to Abraham Yasin, an Arab-American corrections officer who accused the Cook County Sheriff's Department of ignoring his claims that co-workers had targeted him with slurs.
Among other things, Smiley wants all wages she would have gotten since her termination in January."