Va. teacher on leave after accusation of pulling off student’s hijab

Front view of a yellow school bus(Getty Images/iStockphoto/leekris)
WASHINGTON — A Fairfax County, Virginia, teacher has been placed on leave after a student said the teacher pulled the hijab from her head in school.

The student, who goes to Lake Braddock Secondary School, in Burke, said on Twitter that the teacher came up from behind her while she was talking with a friend, pulled the scarf off her head and then said “Oh, your hair is so pretty,” according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Fairfax County Public Schools said in a statement that they are investigating the allegation, and that the teacher has been put on leave. They added that “the teacher’s action was inappropriate and unacceptable” and that the “administration has apologized to the student and her family.”

In the series of tweets, the student said the teacher tried “to play it off like it’s a joke.” She said she was “infuriated, upset and mostly shocked.” She also described the teacher as “a teacher I appreciated and valued.”

CAIR said that they “welcomed” the decision to place the teacher on leave, “but further disciplinary action needs to be taken based on the results of the investigation into this disturbing incident,” National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement.

CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said that a similar incident in Tennessee cost a teacher a job. “It’s really a disturbing phenomenon, that people going to school, going about their daily lives, are now subject to this kind of harassment and attack. … This is happening nationwide, and should be addressed with a nationwide response.”

Hooper said that removing a student’s hijab is “similar to removing somebody’s shirt or pants or any other article of clothing that works to provide modesty for that individual. It’s an extremely disturbing kind of religious insult and offense, and it’s something that no student, or anyone in our society, should be subjected to.”

He added that such an attack “could be considered a hate crime.” He added that he hoped the school system would make the incident “a teaching moment.” CAIR has reached out to the student’s family, but hasn’t heard back yet.

WTOP’s Michelle Basch contributed to this report.

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Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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