MALDEN, Mass. (AP) — A charter school in Massachusetts where an 8th grader was charged with a uniform offense for wearing a hijab says he understands his “handling of the situation came across as insensitive.”
A family member of the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School student posted on social media a photo of the “school uniform compliance form” the student received from a teacher for hijab on Thursday. In the description of the offence, the headscarf worn by Muslim women was misspelled as “jihab”.
The school said in an emailed statement that it allows students to wear religious attire “as an expression of their sincere beliefs,” but asks students to provide a letter “expressing this desire from a member of their clergy”.
School superintendent Alex Dan said there were no consequences for the student and the form sent home was meant to start the conversation with the family about securing accommodation religious. But Dan acknowledged that the situation had been mishandled.
“While we would like to reiterate that the highly respected member of staff overseeing the process should take no responsibility for what happened, we understand how insensitive our handling of the situation has come across and look forward to use this time as a learning opportunity to improve our policies and procedures,” the school statement read.
The Massachusetts chapter of the Council on Islamic-American Relations says its attorneys are representing the student’s family and are investigating the situation. The student now wears a hijab to 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 housing.
“I wish this student never had to justify what she’s wearing,” she said Sunday. “I don’t want them to have to justify that it requires accommodation.”
Mystic Valley Regional Charter School also came under fire in 2017 for a no-braid hair extension policy. Parents of then 15-year-old students said their twin daughters, who are black, were punished for wearing extensions while white students were not punished for breaking hairdressing regulations.
After intense criticism, including from Democratic Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, the school dropped the policy.
In July, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation prompted by the incident to ban discrimination based on natural, protective hairstyles — such as Afros, cornrows, or tightly coiled twists — in workplaces, school districts and school-related organizations in the state.