Press Releases

CAIR-CA: School District to Apologize for Hijab Harassment

(SANTA CLARA, CA, 10/26/07) – The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA) today announced that the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District will issue a public apology in response to an incident earlier this summer in which a high school official demanded that a Muslim student remove her hijab, or Islamic head scarf.
The school district will also amend its “no hat” policy and announce a community awareness forum.
On June 19, 2007, a supervisor in the lunchroom of Seaside High School demanded that a 13-year-old Muslim student remove her headscarf, despite being told that it was worn for religious reasons.
The student, who was visiting the school to take part in a summer algebra program, says she broke down in tears after the supervisor allegedly shouted, “You have to take it off now,” in front of more than 100 other students in the lunchroom. Despite the shouted and repeated demands of the school official, the girl refused to remove her scarf.
On October 29, 2007, during the district’s school board meeting, a public apology will be issued to the student and her family. The apology will address the embarrassment and harm caused while acknowledging her right to wear a hijab at school.
At the meeting, officials will consider a proposal to amend the existing policy, which allows schools discretion to adopt blanket “no-headwear” policies, to include an exception for students wearing head covering for religious reasons.
Angela Chan, a staff attorney at the Asian Law Caucus (ALC) who has been representing the family in this matter, said, “It is our hope that the School Board will make the correct decision and adopt the policy recognizing a students’ right to wear religious headwear. We also want to be sure that the new policy is worded in a manner that prevents such alarming incidents from reoccurring.”
Further, district officials will announce a community forum hosted by the CAIR-SFBA, the ALC, and the student’s family scheduled for Thursday, November 15, 2007, from 6-8 p.m. at the Seaside High School’s library.
The forum will include a presentation from CAIR-SFBA addressing the impact of prejudice and harassment, particularly highlighting hate crimes and other incidents that have been perpetrated against American Muslims. The ALC will provide a “know your rights” presentation outlining the state and federal laws protecting students from harassment and discrimination.
“We are grateful to the school district for its cooperation in addressing this matter and its attention to ensuring safety and equality for all students,” said Safaa Ibrahim, executive director of CAIR-SFBA. “The public forum can turn this into an effective learning opportunity and help avoid future incidents of harassment. We encourage and welcome the entire community to attend.”
CONTACT: CAIR-SFBA Civil Rights Coordinator Mahrukh Hasan at 408.986.9874, mhasan@cair.com; CAIR-SFBA Media & Outreach Coordinator Kourosh Safavi at 408.986.9874, ksafavi@cair.com

 

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