Lawsuit filed in South Orange-Maplewood school hijab incident
The family of a second-grader who alleges her teacher forcibly removed her hijab in class has filed a lawsuit against the teacher and the South Orange-Maplewood School District.
According to attorney Robert Tarver, the girl’s parents, Joseph and Cassandra Wyatt, filed a lawsuit on the student’s behalf “seeking damages for emotional distress, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life and other pains and sufferings”.
Tarver told the News-Record that the teacher, Tamar Herman, a 30-year veteran of SOMSD, “no longer teaches Seth Boyden.”
Village Green has contacted Tarver and the school district for confirmation.
Tarver reported that the student returned to class last October shortly after the alleged incident.
The incident continues to be investigated by the Essex County District Attorney’s Office, according to Maplewood Police Chief Jim DeVaul. The MPD and ECPO took over the school district’s investigation last October. “Aspects of the case are being reviewed by ECPO,” DeVaul said in an email today. “I can confirm that the matter is still under review as recently as last week.”
Meanwhile, at a news conference in Newark on Jan. 6, Tarver explained that the Wyatt family’s lawsuit “allegates violations of New Jersey’s law against discrimination because it is unlawful under the law for an individual, whether a teacher or any other person, to discriminate”. on the basis of religious expression religion, which is exactly what Mrs. Herman did when she deliberately, intentionally and forcefully removed the child’s hijab from her head.
Tarver said the school district is included in the lawsuit because he says the district knew Herman had been flagged for similar incidents by other parents in the past. Tarver described other incidents at a news conference in Maplewood last October.
Herman has issued statements denying any intention to knowingly remove a religious article. Herman’s first statement, made on her behalf by attorney Samantha Harris, reported that she asked the student to remove a hoodie, then rescinded the request when she realized that the hoodie was used as a hijab. In a second public statement, Herman said she “gently pushed back” the girl’s headgear before realizing it was being used as a hijab.
At the end of the second statement, Herman wrote: “I pray that we can move forward as one community. Let’s find a place where we can all be our best and create a better, kinder world. I miss you so much!”
Tarver and the family dispute that the girl was using a hoodie as a hijab, as well as Herman’s characterization of the incident. “We were also able to confirm, and we know beyond a doubt from video and eyewitness accounts, that my client, this child, was not wearing a hoodie as Ms. Herman suggested but was wearing in made a hijab that she’s been wearing every day to class since…back to school,” Tarver said at a press conference in October.
The Wyatt family and Herman report receiving threats and seeking police protection. Representatives for Herman said she was forced to seek protection after CHS graduate and Olympic bronze medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad posted her identity and address on social media.
In October, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ronald Taylor reported that the district had received “threatening” comments in a message to the community calling for “patience and civility”. Taylor reported that the District Central Office and Seth Boyden Elementary School Main Office had been “inundated with hundreds of calls and…over 2,000 emails, the majority of which were from parties outside of our community and the New Jersey” and that “some of their correspondence has been threatening, disrespectful and vulgar in nature.
Also in October, Cassandra Wyatt slammed local social media groups for online posts indicating that Herman’s Jewish religion was a potential reason for his actions. In one post, Wyatt wrote, “I JUST Found Out THE TEACHER IS JEWISHHHHHHHHH,” followed by 17 crying emoticons, then later wrote in response to another commenter, “That’s why I believe she l did now, I’m furious.
Asked to comment on the posts last October, Tarver replied: “[Ms. Wyatt] wants everyone to know that she is not racist, that she is not xenophobic and that she has no religious prejudice towards anyone because she herself was a victim of it in as a Muslim woman.
Tarver added: “She regrets it. She regrets that it caused people pain. But you can imagine a mother in this situation who learns that her child has been raped. She said to me, “Imagine the outrage it would cause if someone tore a yarmulke off the head of a Jewish child. It’s the same I feel now.