NJ MUSLIM LEAVES SCHOOL OVER ROTC HIJAB CONFLICT
SANDY HOOK, NJ - Mona Elgohail is a Muslim teen who has excelled academically throughout her elementary and middle school years. She has a love of the ocean, marine biology and science. "She was an excellent student - not just academically - she was well rounded. She was a good leader who made a wonderful contribution to the student body," said Dr. Martha Wallauer, principal and superintendent at Atlantic Highlands Elementary School. When she was in 5th grade, her teacher, Kevin Bolger, told her about the program at M.A.S.T.
The Marine Academy of Science and Technology, located at Sandy Hook is part of the Monmouth County Vocational School District (MCVSD) which administers the special vocational high schools in the County, including: High Technology High School, Academy of Allied Health & Science, Communications High School, and M.A.S.T. Slots at the schools are hard to come by. Entry is very competitive.
Mona was an 8th grade honors student at Henry Hudson seeking a greater challenge so she took the entry exam for M.A.S.T in February 2003. She was accepted and attended an information session at the school in May. She also attended a freshman picnic in June, but it wasn't until August when the new students were issued their uniforms that anyone brought up the topic of her scarf, according to Mona's mother, Nemera Elgohail...
Dr. Christopher said "I tried to do everything to meet her needs based on her religion.." He shared with Mona and her parents the regulations from the Department of the Navy. "There is nothing in the regs to provide leeway for her religious garb."
The Elgohail's also met with Dr. Brian McAndrew, Superintendent of Schools for MCVSD. Dr. McAndrew said he explained that the protocol that NJROTC uses comes from the U.S. Department of the Navy. "If you want to wear a military uniform you must wear it according to the protocols."
Dr. McAndrew noted that military and veterans hold great respect for the uniform and to alter it would not be welcomed by them.
He said the Navy regulations would permit a yarmulke, a skullcap worn by Jewish men and boys, especially those adhering to Orthodox or Conservative Judaism, to be worn under the NJROTC uniform cap.
Dr. McAndrew said it is a question of choice, and the choice to leave is with the student. "We will not put any student in a situation where they have to leave. It would never be a point of 'wear the uniform or leave'…"