Following severe backlash, school authorities have apologized to the students and their parents for harassing the them.Muslim students at a Virginia high school were required to carry signed notes from their parents to wear hijabs. So when a Muslim girl was unable to present a note when she was accosted by a staff member, she was threatened with disciplinary action and was asked to either remove her hijab or to get a note from her parents to prove she was a Muslim.
The student, Hajah Bah, and her cousin, Fatmata Mansaray, recall the incident as being one that was intensely embarrassing for both of them. On the day Bah was asked for a note by the staff member, she did not have one. Instead of letting her get on with her classes, the staff member, began to harass the two girls, asking them to prove that they are Muslims. Rather than get cowed down, however, the girls shot back asking why they had to carry notes to prove their religion and even refused to take off their hijab as it was their religious symbol and fasting for Ramadan.
The school authorities have, however, apologized to the girls and their parents, following an uproar on social media and a backlash by civil rights activists. Debra Katz, a D.C.-based civil rights attorney, called the demand from the girls for a note proving their religion was “a very ignorant request and also unconstitutional” one. She observed that “the suggestion that somehow you have to prove the sincerity of your religious background or belief is completely inappropriate.”
Mike Mulgrew, the associate superintendent for Prince William County Public Schools, has apologized to the parents, saying that there may have been a misunderstanding of a previous rule where the school issued passes to Muslim students to allow them to pray. He added that things have now been made clear to the staff members. In addition, the school’s Principal Inez Bryant and Assistant Principal Christi Feemster have also apologized to the parents. The school’s handbook has been modified to prevent further incidents such as these.
Both girls revealed hey do not wear hijabs all the time, but do so during the holy month of Ramadan. However, they said that even otherwise, when they do wear the hijab, school authorities have questioned them and demanded notes.