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It’s hard to keep track of the South Orange-Maplewood hijab incident. Last October 6th, Seth Boyden Elementary School second-grade teacher Tamar Herman was accused of pulling off a student’s head scarf and placed on administrative leave. A social media storm erupted, including tweets from Gov.. Murphy and a viral Instagram post from Maplewood resident and fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim American athlete to compete in the Olympics in a hijab. But in January the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office concluded, “there is insufficient evidence to sustain a criminal prosecution in this case.”
Nine days ago Maplewood resident Talya Rothenberg came to the school board meeting to demand an apology from the Board and district to Herman. In her remarks Rothenberg described a “rush to judgment” that was “biblical in proportion.” She also reported that in January the child’s mother, Ms. Wyatt, went to Ms. Herman’s door and apologized, saying “this is just a total misunderstanding” and that her child loves her teacher and misses her.” Rothenberg concluded, “It is time now [for the School Board] to make Ms. Herman whole” by rectifying the “injustice you perpetuated.”
But we’ve now learned that on March 4th, the Wyatts filed a civil lawsuit against district administrators, school board members, and Herman, saying that on that day in October the teacher “grabbed [the child’s] hijab, pulling it back, touching her face and hair and exposing S.W.’s uncovered head to the class.”
In the lawsuit the family says they are of African-American descent and are Muslim; their daughter has worn a hijab since she was 9 months old and wears one to school every day. They also accused the district of a pattern of “abusive” incidents between Herman and other Black students.
The lawsuit says the child has suffered emotional distress and has nightmares. She resumed attending school a few weeks after the incident and her parents requested the district allow her to transfer to another district elementary school. That request, according to the suit, was denied.
North Jersey Media reports,
The lawsuit accuses the school district and Herman of negligence, intentionally causing emotional distress and violating state law against discrimination. It also accuses Herman of assault through offensive physical conduct.