Sumayyah Wyatt, 7, is a student attending Seth Boyden Elementary School in Maplewood. She is also Muslim. Speaking to WABC, her mother, Cassandra Wyatt, says that the incident has left her daughter no longer wanting to wear the religious veil.
“I have to go introduce her to a different world that I’ve been trying to protect her from,” Cassandra Wyatt said. She explained that she had raised her daughter to believe the hijab is protection. “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 adds.
The family attorney says the teacher initially asked the student to remove her hijab. When she refused, the teacher yanked it off her head.
“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.”
Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad also raised the alarm over the incident. She identified the teacher as Tamar Herman. “Herman told the student that her hair was beautiful and she did not have to wear hijab to school anymore,” she wrote.
The teacher has since been placed on leave by the South Orange-Maplewood School District.
Herman’s attorney denies any wrongdoing on his client’s behalf.
“The versions depicted on social media are 100-percent untrue,” Ronald Ricci told NBC News. “We’re confident that after a full, fair investigation that it’ll be found that Ms. Herman committed no wrong doing.”
Herman’s ex-husband also spoke to the news outlet. He says there’s no way his former partner would ever do such a thing.
Leonard Herman “It’s not true, I know my ex-wife. I know she would never do something like that,” he said, sharing that the teacher is the daughter of a holocaust survivor and has socialized with Muhammad.
The school district released the following statement.
“Today, we were made aware of an allegation of discrimination and immediately began an investigation. The District takes matters of discrimination extremely seriously,” according to a district statement on Thursday. “This evening, we were alerted to social media posts related to the allegations. 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.”