MAPLEWOOD, NJ (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 worn the hijab, a traditional blanket for the hair and neck, since they were very young.
âI’m trying to teach them modesty and teach them what God wants us to do and what our purpose is here,â Wyatt said.
Wyatt says Sumayyah’s Grade 2 teacher at Seth Boyden Elementary School in Maplewood, New Jersey, forcibly removed the hijab from her head on Wednesday.
“She said,” Yes, mum, she took off my hijabâ¦ She walked up to me saying you can’t wear this here, and then she took it off. And when she went to take it off, Sumayyah was trying to hold itâ¦ and then, she finally took it off, looked at her hair and said, ‘Well, your hair is beautiful.’ Sumayyah said, “Oh, thank you” and put on her hijab. And the whole class saw it, âWyatt said.
There is now an investigation into the incident.
The New Jersey branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group, is calling for the teacher’s dismissal.
âThe teacher didn’t just put her hands on her, she took off her scarf. It is, of course, humiliating for any Muslim woman to be exposed this way in public, âsaid Selaedin Maksut, executive director of CAIR-NJ.
The South Orange-Maplewood School District says staff members involved have a right to due process before any action is taken. It also indicates that matters relating to staff and students are kept confidential due to legal obligations.
Wyatt calls the hijab a form of protection from God. She says Sumayyah is traumatized and doesn’t want to carry her anymore.
âThe first time we went out was the next dayâ¦ twice she took her hijab off her head and kind of curled it up,â she said.
Sumayyah has not returned 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 adopting restorative practices to help our students, staff and families deal with the socio-emotional damage caused.”
CAIR-NJ wants the school to take additional steps to tackle the problem, such as training teachers and adopting a curriculum for students to learn more about Islam.
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