Ibtihaj Muhammad (pictured), who won bronze in women’s team sabre in Rio, claimed on social media last week that Seth Boyden Elementary School teacher Tamar Herman ‘forcibly removed the hijab’ from a second-grader’s head
A New Jersey elementary teacher is getting death threats after she says an US Olympic medal-winning fencer falsely accused her of pulling off a student’s hijab in the middle of class.
Ibtihaj Muhammad, who won bronze in women’s team sabre in Rio, claimed on social media last week that Seth Boyden Elementary School teacher Tamar Herman ‘forcibly removed the hijab’ from second-grader Sumayyah Wyatt’s head.
The unfounded allegation forced Herman to seek police protection after being threatened, said her civil rights attorney Samantha Harris.
‘The misinformation shared on social media has caused tremendous harm to Ms. Herman — a teacher who, after more than 30 years of devoting her heart and soul to children of all backgrounds, has now had to ask for police protection due to the threats she is receiving following the dissemination of false information on social media,’ Harris said in a statement obtained by Patch.
The threats followed claims Muhammad made on Instagram last week.
‘Herman told the student that her hair was beautiful and she did not have to wear hijab to school anymore,’ Muhammad told her 384,000 followers.
‘Imagine being a child and stripped of your clothing in front of your classmates. Imagine the humiliation and trauma this experience has caused her.’
Muhammad claimed on social media last week that Herman ‘forcibly removed the hijab’ from second-grader Sumayyah Wyatt’s head (pictured)
Sumayyah Wyatt’s mother, Cassandra Wyatt, told ABC7 that the teacher needed to ‘pay’ for the incident
Sumayyah Wyatt’s mother, Cassandra Wyatt, told ABC7 that the teacher needed to ‘pay’ for the incident.
‘She had to know that was a hijab,’ she said. ‘She has to pay for that. I’d love for her to apologize to my daughter, and then my daughter would feel better.’
‘I have to go introduce her to a different world that I’ve been trying to protect her from,’ Cassandra Wyatt said.
She added that she had told her daughter that her hijab is her protection.
‘Now she’s asked me, ‘Well, if this is my protection, my teacher took this off of my head.’ So how can you explain to your child?’ she said.
The family’s lawyer branded the incident as ‘incredibly disturbing’.
‘It is very, very, symbolic of disregard of her religion and certainly something that has affected my clients overall.’
Numerous social media users accepted Muhammad’s account as fact, and demanded the teacher be punished.
‘(She) needs to be fired or suspended without pay for at least a month,’ said one Twitter user. ‘You touch my child it’s assault. And we not just having words.’
Seth Boyden Elementary School teacher Tamar Herman was accused of removing a Grade 2 student’s hijab, and her lawyer says the ‘false narrative’ resulted in threats
Ibtihaj Muhammad, an Olympic bronze medalist, made the claims publicly on Instagram
The Olympian, who became the first American Muslim woman to wear a hijab while competing at the Olympic games, won bronze in women’s team sabre in Rio 2016
Another user tweeted to the South Orange and Maplewood School District: ‘Looks like you failed to educate your teachers on this. Have Tamar Herman’s actions been reported to @MaplewoodTWP police department for assault and hate crimes?
‘Forcible removal of a hijab is a hate crime and should be prosecuted accordingly.’
But Harris said the accusations being levelled against Herman aren’t just unfair: they’re untrue.
‘The false narrative being pushed by activists is quickly turning this veteran teacher’s life upside-down,’ she said on Twitter.
‘This is not a story about a teacher forcibly removing a student’s hijab. This is a story about the power of social media to spread misinformation and destroy lives, and about the ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ approach to journalism.’
Harris said in the statement that Herman was trying to help a student whose hood was obscuring her vision.
‘In accordance with school policy, Ms. Herman directed a student in her class to pull down the hood on a hooded sweatshirt because it was blocking her eyes – and immediately rescinded that request when she realized that the student was wearing the hood in place of, rather than on top of, her usual hijab.’
Herman has been placed on leave and is currently under investigation, said her attorney Ronald Ricci.
Numerous social media users called for Herman’s resignation, and said she should be charged
‘The versions depicted on social media are 100-percent untrue,’ Ricci told NBC News on Friday. ‘We’re confident that after a full, fair investigation that it’ll be found that Ms. Herman committed no wrongdoing.’
Herman’s ex-husband, Leonard Herman, also vouched for the teacher’s character and noted that she knows Muhammad.
‘My wife is a friend of hers, they work out in the gym together,’ he said. ‘I don’t know why she’s doing this.
‘I know she would never do something like that.’
The Council on American-Islamic Relations of New Jersey said it was troubled by the accusation, with Executive Director Selaedin Maksut describing it as ‘absolutely unacceptable’ as he joined others calling for the Herman’s termination.
Muhammad is widely known for being the first American Muslim woman to wear a hijab while competing at the Olympic games and is a New Times bestselling author who wrote about her experiences growing up as a Muslim-American.