Teaching in Kuwait

Katherine Phillips, assistant principal of an elite private middle school in Kuwait, is trapped in the country. Her problems started more than a year ago, when she put several boys on in-school detention for a day for fighting. The well-connected father of one boy threatened to “destroy” her.

First, the school’s discipline policies were investigated by the Ministry of Education, which ruled that the school could not use in-school suspensions. Then the father filed a case against Phillips for “illegal detainment” of his son. On June 13, she was stopped from boarding a plane at the airport because of the “pending investigation.”

The U.S. Embassy has not helped lift the travel ban. Kuwaiti officials seem to be stalling her. The school is closed and her colleagues soon will be gone for the summer. She writes:

I do not feel safe. I am not safe. I need someone from the US to acknowledge the urgency of my situation and coordinate my release. I committed no crime. I am simply the victim of “wasta” which roughly translates into “influence/pressure” at a high level.

International Schools Review advises teachers and administrators not to take jobs or return to jobs in Kuwait until the situation is resolved.

Via Middle School Teacher.

About Joanne


  1. My daughter is a Princeton Review “master tutor” for SAT, though she doesn’t currently work for the company. A few years ago, right after she was graduated from college, she had the opportunity to go work at the Princeton Review’s officde in the United Arab Emirates. She decided not to take the job — thank goodness!!

  2. retired teacher says:

    Please keep us posted on any change in Ms. Philips’ status. For what it’s worth, I emailed the teacher-in-chief Laura Bush.

  3. And the Kuwaitis are supposed to be the good guys, the reasonable ones.

  4. I told another teacher this story and her reaction was the same as mine.

    This is the kind of thing that happens here in our schools.

    The only different is that in Kuwait, mutlitply it by 1000.

    I’m dismayed that the embassy hasn’t resolved the issue by now.

    It seems that some foreign governments in the Middle East are treated with kid gloves by our government.

  5. I couldn’t find Laura Bush’s email so I sent one to the White House and another one to my congressional rep.

    It is different in Kuwait.

    When I have problems with parents, they usually want me to leave the country.

  6. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Robert, I just volunteered you for her job, unless somethng opens up in Somalia. Have hope.

    [Reminds me of a story. A woman saw a scruffy guy on the street corner, seemingly lost. On impulse she handed him 5 dollars and said “Have hope.”
    The next day the guy stopped her and gave her 40 dollars, “Have Hope came from behind and paid 8 to 1” he said.]

  7. Vince Sellen says:

    I taught at Al Bayan HS ’99-2001 and had none of these problems. However, I heard that it has become a ‘for profit school’ which typically means that academic standards mean little. This also reflects on a culture where democratic principles are meaningless and power is everything-so what is it we are fighting for in Iraq?

  8. It is all true and welcome to Kuwait. The Kuwaiti’s mobile telephone number is public knowledge and everyone should call him to plead for Katerine.

    He would never pick on an American male as he would be picking up his teeth along with a large brown streak in his dishdasha.

    Shame on him, shame on the American Embassy in Kuwait, time to send in the Marines for an extrication.

  9. Use to work at Al Bayan -- New idea? says:

    Hi there,
    It does not surprise me one bit in terms of the ordeal Kay is currently undergoing in Kuwait. Al Bayan has had issues for the past few years and unfortunately she is getting no support from her administration team (for fear that if they help they will be promply dismissed from their positions).
    If the Americans want to play hardball, why not ask all Western governments (ie. Most of Europ and US/Canada) to slap a similar travel ban on the family that is putting Kay through all of this? Sometimes unfortunately you have to speak the language of the agressor and I would be willing to bet that the family doing this to Kay would quickly drop this travel ban, should it mean they too would be trapped in the little sandbox that is called Kuwait.