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Posted under: News

Black Parents Workshop Speaks Out On Behalf Of Second-Grader Who Said Teacher Yanked Hijab Off In Class

The child's mother said her daughter is now traumatized and she dreads wearing her hijab.

Update (Oct. 12, 2021): The Black Parents Workshop, Inc. is speaking out in support of a second-grader who allegedly had her hijab yanked off of her by her teacher. 

Elementary schooler Sumayyah Wyatt's family said her daughter is shaken after accusing her teacher of telling the student to take her hijab off, then ripping it off when she refused.

The Black Parents Workshop, which seeks to ensure equitable treatment of Black students, said the Wyatt family reached out to them following the incident. 

"We support the call of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in demanding that the South Orange-Maplewood School District address the conduct of the student’s teacher and make certain the student is above all, protected, and provided the resources her family desires to make amends for this violation of trust and duty of care," the group said in a statement sent to Blavity. 

The group asserts that Sumayyah's religious rights were "violated."

"When a child walks into a classroom, they deserve to feel safe and not burdened by the necessity to validate their race, ethnicity, or religious beliefs," the statement continued. "We believe if the South Orange-Maplewood School District would implement the anti-racist and cultural competency training for teachers that the Black Parents Workshop and others have advocated, incidents such as this would not occur. It is long past time for this district’s practices to match its rhetoric."

The South Orange-Maplewood School District said the incident is under investigation.

Original (Oct. 11, 2021): The family of a second-grade student in Maplewood, New Jersey, is outraged after a teacher allegedly ripped the girl's hijab from her head. Speaking with WABC, Sumayyah Wyatt's mother, Cassandra Wyatt, said her daughter is now traumatized and dreads wearing her hijab as a result of the teacher's action at Seth Boyden Elementary School. 

The family's lawyer said the incident happened last week when the teacher first told the student to remove her head covering, then proceeded to yank it off when the girl refused. 

"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 family is now demanding for the educator to face consequences.

"She had to know that was a hijab," Cassandra said. "She has to pay for that. I'd love for her to apologize to my daughter, and then my daughter would feel better."

Attorney Samantha Harris, who represents the teacher, vehemently denies the allegations, saying, "It's a story about misinformation, and what happens when people publicize rumors without any knowledge of or regard for the truth."

The attorney said the teacher told the student "to pull down the hood on what appeared to be a hooded sweatshirt because it was blocking her eyes." Harris adds that the educator "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," the lawyer said in a statement.

Cassandra, however, said her daughter came home and gave a detailed account of the incident. 

“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," the mother told WTVM. "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.”

The South Orange-Maplewood School District said the incident is under investigation.

"The district takes matters of discrimination extremely seriously," officials stated. "We remain committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout our schools, including providing anti-bias and anti-racism training for all educators in the district on a regular basis."

Cassandra said her two girls have been wearing a hijab 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,” the mother said.

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