New Jersey school district under fire after alleged incident involving hijab

Northeast

Photo via WPIX

MAPLEWOOD, N.J. (WPIX) — Zaynab Wyatt says her daughter Sumayyah is now traumatized after her second grade teacher snatched the hijab off the girl’s head in the middle of class.

It happened at Seth Boyden Elementary school in Maplewood, a township roughly 18 miles outside of New York City, on Wednesday.

The 7-year-old hasn’t returned to the school since. Now Wyatt wants the teacher — identified as Tamar Herman who has been with the district for nearly 25 years — fired.

“She walked up to her and said, ‘You can’t wear this in here’ and Sumayyah was like ‘No that’s my hijab, that’s my hijab,’” Wyatt told NewsNation affiliate WPIX, describing the incident now under investigation by the school district. 

“I think that she should be reprimanded, I think that she should be fired and I think that she should feel disgusted because it was disgusting what she did,” she said.

The incident went viral this week after Olympic medal-winning fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad posted about it on social media, causing an uproar. 

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The Council of American Islamic Relations says it violates not only religious liberty, but human decency.

“Muslim women wear the head scarf out of modesty,” explained Salaedin Maksut of CAIR-NJ. “So to remove that is not only disrespectful but could also be humiliating for the one who wears the head scarf.”

While Wyatt maintains that the South Orange-Maplewood School District has yet to reach out to her about the situation, a district spokesperson issued a statement to WPIX News saying in part:

Social Media is not a reliable forum for due process and the staff member(s) involved are entitled to due process before any action is taken. We must abide by our legal obligations to keep personnel and student matters confidential.

An attorney for the teacher also released a statement saying the claims being made are 100% not true. But according to an attorney for the Wyatt family, the school district has been plagued with a series of similar incidents of discrimination in recent years that have not been addressed.

“Even in a community like Maplewood, which has a Mayberry type of story behind it, there are some things that are very strange lurking behind the scenes,” Robert Tarver Jr., the Wyatt family attorney, said.  

The Wyatt family, along with their attorney, will be holding a press conference early next week to talk about the incident as well as other cases of discrimination that have taken place in the district.

WPIX has also learned that the Maplewood Police Department has opened an investigation into the incident.

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