MAPLEWOOD, N.J. — A New Jersey police department has opened an inquiry into allegations that a teacher removed a hijab off a student’s head at school.
The South Orange and Maplewood School District has paused their internal investigation into the discrimination allegations as Maplewood Police Department leads their own inquiry, according to a letter sent by the school district.
Zaynab Wyatt said her 7-year-old daughter was traumatized after her second grade teacher at Seth Boyden Elementary school in Maplewood snatched her hijab off the girl’s head in the middle of class last week.
Last Wednesday’s incident went viral after Olympic medal-winning fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad posted about it on social media, causing an uproar, and prompting calls for the teacher to be fired.
An attorney for the teacher released a statement following the allegations, 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.
In the letter sent out by the district, the superintendent said the school district’s office and Seth Boyden’s main office has been flooded with hundreds of calls and thousands of emails from people outside the community and state.
“Some of the correspondences have been threatening, disrespectful, and vulgar in nature,” he added.
He also acknowledged these allegations can spark conversations with children at home and although it may be uncomfortable, they can be invaluable, “teachable moments” for everyone.
“Seth Boyden Elementary School is an environment that has traditionally been dedicated to maintaining a culture of wellness, diversity, and safety that creates a positive environment for its students to succeed on campus and in their personal lives. Daily, their dedicated administrators, staff, students and parents strive to uphold these values and improve our community. We want to specifically thank Seth Boyden’s administrators and staff for ensuring that in the midst of what has been a challenging few days our students continued to receive an exemplary education and were safeguarded from external factors,” the superintendent said.