America’s largest Muslim organisation is demanding that a teacher in New Jersey be sacked after she allegedly yanked a hijab off a Muslim student in front of her class.
Local authorities are investigating the alleged incident at Seth Boyden Elementary school, Maplewood, where the teacher allegedly assaulted a seven year old.
The alleged incident came to light after Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, a Maplewood native, wrote an Instagram post detailing the occurrence.
“The young student resisted, by trying to hold onto her hijab, but the teacher pulled the hijab off, exposing her hair to the class,” Muhammad wrote. “Imagine being a child and stripped of your clothing in front of your classmates. Imagine the humiliation and trauma this experience has caused her. This is abuse.”
“Schools should be a haven for all of our kids to feel safe, welcome, and protected – no matter their faith,” she added. “We cannot move toward a post-racial America until we weed out the racism and bigotry that still exist in all layers of our society. By protecting Muslim girls who wear hijab, we are protecting the rights of all of us to have a choice in the way we dress.”
The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) have called for the teacher to be fired.
CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said: “Anything less is an insult to the students and parents of Maplewood. Forcefully stripping off the religious headscarf of a Muslim girl is not only exceptionally disrespectful behaviour, but also a humiliating and traumatic experience.
“Muslim students already deal with bullying from peers, it’s unthinkable that a teacher would add to their distress. Islamophobia in our public schools must be addressed in New Jersey and nationwide. Classrooms are a place for students to feel safe and welcome, not fear practicing their faith.”
Supporting the call of CAIR NJ and denouncing Islamophobia in the school, Black Parents Workshop said: “The South Orange Maplewood School District should address the conduct of the student’s teacher and make certain the student is above all, protected, and provided the resources her family desires to make amends for this violation of trust and duty of care.”
The teacher, Tamar Herman, has denied the incident occurred, and her attorney said in a statement that the student wasn’t wearing hijab but a hoodie.
The statement read: “In accordance with school policy, Ms. Herman directed a student in her class to pull down the hood on a hooded sweatshirt because it was blocking her eyes – and immediately rescinded that request when she realized that the student was wearing the hood in place of, rather than on top of, her usual hijab.”
However, Zaynab Wyatt, the mother of the 7-year-old, said the other students in the class could corroborate the incident and recount Herman telling her daughter that her hair was beautiful and should not be covered.
“They have to remove her from the school. They have to remove her from this district. She needs to be fired. She needs to go to counseling. My daughter has to go to counseling,” Wyatt said.
In an emailed statement to parents, the South Orange Maplewood School District said it was made aware of the allegations and has started an investigation. It said that social media is not a reliable forum for due process.
“We must abide by our legal obligations to keep personnel and student matters confidential. We will utilise the existing District due process mechanisms to ensure fair and just outcomes based upon the results of our investigation. Any decision or outcome related to this will be reserved for after the completion of the investigation,” the statement read.
The school district said that it remains committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as regular anti-bias and anti-racism training for educators.
“Regardless of the results of the investigation, we are committed to restorative practices to help our students, staff, and families process the social-emotional harms done,” the statement said.