Muslim girl in US school is told her hijab breached uniform code

In a description of the infraction, the headscarf worn by Muslim women was misspelt as 'jihab'

The Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said its lawyers are representing the pupil's family and are investigating the incident. AP
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A US school where a pupil was admonished for a uniform infraction after wearing a hijab says it understands that its “handling of the situation came across as insensitive”.

A family member of the 8th Grade pupil at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Massachusetts posted on social media a picture of the School Uniform Compliance Form that the girl received from a teacher for the hijab on Thursday.

In the description of the infraction, the headscarf worn by Muslim women was misspelled as “jihab”.

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In an emailed statement, the school said that it allowed pupils to wear religious attire “as an expression of their sincerely held beliefs”, but asked them to provide a letter “expressing this desire from a member of their clergy”.

School superintendent Alex Dan said there were no consequences given to the pupil and that the form sent home was meant to start the conversation with the family about obtaining a religious accommodation. But Mr Dan acknowledged that the situation was mishandled.

"While we would like to reiterate that the well-respected staff member overseeing the process should bear no responsibility for what has transpired, we understand how our handling of the situation came across as insensitive and look forward to using this moment as a learning opportunity to improve our policies and procedures," the school's statement read.

The Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said its lawyers were representing the pupil's family and investigating the incident. The girl is now wearing a hijab at school, the group said.

Cair-Massachusetts executive director Tahirah Amatul-Wadud said wearing a hijab or other religious attire should not require families to seek an accommodation.

“I would like never for that student have to justify what she is wearing,” she said on Sunday. "I don't want them to ever have to justify that this requires an accommodation."

The Mystic Valley Regional Charter School also came under fire in 2017 for a policy of banning hair braid extensions. The parents of then 15-year-olds said their twin daughters, who are black, were punished for wearing extensions while white students had not been punished for breaches of hairstyle regulations.

After intense criticism, including from Democratic Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, the school abandoned the policy.

In July, Republican Governor Charlie Baker signed a law prompted by that incident to ban discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles — such as Afros, cornrows or tightly coiled twists — in workplaces, school districts and school-related organisations in the state.

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Updated: August 21, 2022, 9:37 PM
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