Authorities in Maplewood, New Jersey have opened an investigation into allegations that a teacher “forcibly” removed a second grader’s hijab, an incident the instructor called a misunderstanding.
The alleged Oct. 6 incident at Seth Boyden Elementary School touched off an online firestorm after fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim-American Olympic medalist, posted about it on Facebook last week.
South Orange-Maplewood School District officials notified parents of the police investigation in a Tuesday letter to parents, according to NorthJersey.com.
After initially announcing that social media was not a “reliable forum for due process,” Superintendent Ronald Taylor reportedly sent a letter to parents saying that the school was suspending its internal probe and kicking the investigation up to cops.
Accused teacher Tamar Herman told the outlet through her lawyer that the child was not even wearing a hijab and the event was a misunderstanding.
“Last week, I asked one of my students to raise the hood of her sweatshirt because it was covering her eyes,” Herman reportedly said.
“With her mask on, too, her whole face was covered. I gently got her attention by brushing up the front of her hood. The moment I realized she was not wearing her usual hijab underneath, she kept the hood on. And the learning went on.”
A lawyer for the girl’s family disputed Herman’s denial, according to the article.
“I want to make it clear that we have obtained independent verification that completely supports the assertion of the student,” Robert L Tarver reportedly said in a statement.
Muhammad’s original post prompted thousands of people outside the district to flood the school with complaints, some of them “vulgar” and “threatening,” according to the report.
“We must stand together and vehemently denounce discrimination in all of its forms,” the Maplewood native wrote while sharing the school’s contact information.
The unidentified girl has not returned to class and Herman is “not on site indefinitely,” officials said, according to the report.