A teacher in a U.S. public school threatened to “out” her student, a young Muslim girl, who chose to take off her hijab. The teacher noticed the girl had removed her hijab and asked her about it after class. She then told the girl she would tell the girl’s parents.
The student, who attends a Massachusetts public high school, wrote about the December 18 incident on Reddit, a popular social media site.
The story is chilling. Here is the story in her own words:
“So today I was happy. I had completely stopped covering my hair and was talking confidently with other people, I was just so joyful I wanted to go home and dream about it at night.
“Then in math class, when the bell rang to switch, a teacher asked me about my hijab. I told her that I just took it off and it was no big deal. She then told me that it was important to uphold culture and asked if my parents knew what I was doing. Being the idiot I am, I said no and asked if she would tell. To my absolute horror, she said yes.
“My whole world stopped. I asked her why she would do that and she just said “because it’s your culture! And you were given an advantage to be able to wear the hijab as a uniform, so don’t just take advantage.” I put my head down for a while, holding back tears. Before I knew it, it was time for the last class. In the hallway I just walked mindlessly to my next class. Then the same teacher who wanted to out me had apparently told the science teacher about what I had done. Both of them told me to come over and the science teacher asked what’s wrong. I didn’t say anything, and at that moment she just hugged me and I started sobbing.
“She led me to the empty classroom and sat me down along with the other teacher. They gave me a whole lecture about why I shouldn’t have taken it off and my parents are just protecting me, I shouldn’t try to get a boyfriend even though I said I didn’t want one. After the talk I just put my hijab back on and left, it was time to go home now.
“At the beginning of the day I was full of hope, and at the end I just felt crushed. I was lucky that they didn’t tell my mom, but they’re watching me from now on so I just can’t do what I have been doing anymore. I don’t know what to do now, my double life has ended before I knew it, and I lost a good chunk of the confidence I had earlier …
“Update #1 : So when this incident happened, two of my close friends were witnesses and told some of the people I trust, so I know that I at least have backup. Today those friends asked what happened, if I’m alright, and I feel a lot better today. I’ll report this to the principal when I get a chance, I’ll keep you updated.
“Update #2: I spoke with the principal. He said that it’s my choice how I dress as long as it abides by the dress code. He said if those teachers want to talk to my mother, they can talk to him about it, so I’m free to take off my hijab. I’m going to try to take it off again, I’ll update again if she tries anything.”
That a teacher in a U.S. public school would threaten to “out” a Muslim student to the student’s parents for choosing to remove what the student perceived as an oppressive garment is not only a violation of the girl’s right of religious freedom, but very well might have endangered the girl’s life itself.
It is an outrage that something like this could happen in a U.S. public school.