Teacher accused of forcibly removing hijab from 2nd grade Muslim student

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 hair and neck covering, since they were very young.

“I try to teach them modesty and teach them what God wants us to do and what our purpose is here,” Wyatt said.

Cassandra Wyatt’s family is Muslim. Her 7-year-old daughter Sumayyah and her sister have worn the hijab, a traditional hair and neck covering, since they were very young.(Source: Cassandra Wyatt, WCBS via CNN)

Wyatt says Sumayyah’s 2nd grade teacher at Seth Boyden Elementary School in Maplewood, New Jersey, forcibly removed the hijab from her head on Wednesday.

“She said, ‘Yeah mum, she took my hijab off…She came up to me and said 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 it…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 her hijab back on. And the whole class saw 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 group for Muslims, is calling for the teacher’s removal.

“The teacher not only put her hands on her, took off her headscarf. It is, of course, humiliating for any Muslim woman to be exposed in this way in public,” said Selaedin Maksut, Executive Director of 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 indicates that staff and student matters 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 wear it anymore.

“The first time we dated was the next day…twice she took her hijab off her head and she kind of rolled it up,” 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 implementing restorative practices to help our students, staff, and families address the social-emotional harm caused.”

CAIR-NJ wants the school to take new steps to tackle the problem, such as training teachers and adopting a curriculum that allows students to learn more about Islam.

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