Teacher accused of forcibly removing Muslim 2nd grader’s hijab
MAPLEWOOD, N.J. (WCBS) - A school district in Essex County, New Jersey, is investigating an allegation of discrimination by a teacher against a 7-year-old Muslim student.
Cassandra Wyatt’s family is Muslim. Her 7-year-old daughter Sumayyah and her sister have been wearing the hijab, a traditional covering for the hair and neck, since they were very young.
“I try to teach them modesty and teach them about what God wants us to do and what is our purpose here,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt says Sumayyah’s 2nd grade teacher at Seth Boyden Elementary School in Maplewood, New Jersey, forcefully removed the hijab from her head Wednesday.
“She said, ‘Yes, Mommy, she pulled my hijab off… She walked up to me saying you can’t wear that in here, and then, she pulled it off.’ And when she went to pull it off, Sumayyah was trying to hold it… and then, she finally got it off, looked at her hair and said, ‘Well, your hair is nice.’ Sumayyah said, ‘Oh, thank you’ and put her hijab back on. And the whole entire class seen it,” Wyatt said.
There is now an investigation into the incident.
The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, a civil rights advocacy group for Muslims, is calling for the teacher’s removal.
“The teacher not only put her hands on her, removed her headscarf. This is, of course, humiliating for any Muslim woman to be exposed this way in public,” said Selaedin Maksut, the executive director for CAIR-NJ.
The South Orange-Maplewood School District says the staff members involved are entitled to due process before any action is taken. It also says personnel and student matters are kept confidential due to legal obligations.
Wyatt calls the hijab a form of God’s protection. She says Sumayyah is traumatized and no longer wants to wear it.
“The first time we came outside, which was the next day… twice she took her hijab off her head, and she kind of balled it up,” she said.
Sumayyah has not been back to school since the alleged incident.
The school district wrote in a statement that “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.”
CAIR-NJ wants the school to take further steps to tackle the issue, such as training teachers and adopting a curriculum that enables students to learn more about Islam.
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