A New Jersey family is reeling and preparing a lawsuit after they say a teacher violated a 7-year old Muslim girl, and a famed Olympic fencer is helping to amplify their story.
Sumayyah Wyatt, a student at Maplewood, New Jersey’s Seth Boyden Elementary School told her mom Cassandra Wyatt that a teacher ripped her hijab off her head, embarrassing her in front of her classmates.
Cassandra Wyatt said she’s always told her daughter that her hijab is her protection so she’s especially disheartened, reports ABC 7 NY.
“Now she’s asked me, ‘Well, if this is my protection, my teacher took this off of my head.’ So how can you explain to your child?” she said.
The Wyatt family lawyer told ABC 7 NY that the second-grader has always worn a headscarf to school as a part of her Muslim faith so on Wednesday, when the teacher allegedly told her to remove it, Sumayyh was puzzled and resisted.
“Ultimately, the teacher succeeds in pulling the hijab off her head, followed by a bizarre statement which is, ‘Your hair is beautiful,’” the attorney said. “It is incredibly disturbing. It is very, very, symbolic of disregard of her religion and certainly something that has affected my clients overall.”
The traumatized child is also reportedly “no longer interested” in wearing the Muslim garb after the incident and the family is ready to take legal action.
Samantha Harris, the attorney who represents the elementary school teacher, says however that this is all just a misunderstanding and she’s blaming social media for spreading “misinformation.”
According to Harris, her client asked the student to “pull down the hood on a hooded sweatshirt” not realizing that the hood was allegedly “being worn in place of” the child’s hijab.
“This is not a story about a teacher who forcibly removed a student’s hijab,” said attorney Harris via a statement. “This is a story about social media, misinformation, and what happens when people publicize rumors without any knowledge of or regard for the truth. (The teacher) did not, as has been alleged, forcibly remove a student’s hijab or tell a student that she should not have to wear a hijab. In accordance with school policy, (the teacher) directed a student in her class to pull down the hood on what appeared to be a hooded sweatshirt because it was blocking her eyes – and immediately rescinded that request when she realized that the student was wearing the hood in place of, rather than on top of, her usual hijab. The misinformation shared on social media has caused tremendous harm to (the teacher) – a teacher who, after more than 30 years of devoting her heart and soul to children of all backgrounds, has now had to ask for police protection due to the threats she is receiving following the dissemination of false information on social media.”
News of this incident was widely spread by Maplewood native and famed Olympic medalist fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad who took to Facebook to shed light on the incident.
“The young student resisted, by trying to hold onto her hijab, but the teacher pulled the hijab off, exposing her hair to the class,” Muhmmad said in the post.
“This is abuse. Schools should be a haven for all of our kids to feel safe, welcome and protected — no matter their faith.”
The South Orange Maplewood School District is investigating.