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Fairfax teacher suspended after complaint that a student’s hijab was yanked off

A Fairfax County Public Schools teacher was placed on leave this week while the district investigates a complaint that he pulled the hijab off a Muslim student.

The alleged incident at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke prompted outrage from a Muslim advocacy group and others, and echoed a similar case in Tennessee that drew national attention.

In a message to parents, the school’s principal, David Thomas, said the teacher’s actions were inappropriate and that the teacher had apologized to the student and her family.

“As you know, we continuously strive to create a positive learning environment at Lake Braddock Secondary School, and this week we regrettably had an incident that failed to live up to those standards,” Thomas said.

“I want to reinforce that we celebrate the diversity of our students and families,” the principal wrote. “It is a strength of our school.”

Last week, the Tennessean newspaper reported that a teacher in that state was kept on indefinite suspension without pay after a school system investigation into accounts on social media asserting that the teacher had pulled off a student’s hijab.

At a time of tensions over politics and religion nationally, the Lake Braddock complaint prompted a strong reaction online. Some saw the incident as a clear sign of intolerance toward Islamic faith and traditions. Some said the teacher’s actions had been misunderstood.

Fairfax County Public Schools spokesman John Torre described the teacher’s actions as “inappropriate and unacceptable” in a written statement.

Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a written statement that he welcomed the school’s decision but that further disciplinary action needs to be taken. “No student should be bullied or attacked because of his or her faith. Teachers must protect students, not subject them to harassment or intimidation.”

The student wrote on social media that she was talking with a friend when the male teacher approached from behind and pulled off the hijab. “I felt so infuriated, upset, and mostly shocked when he did this to me,” she wrote.

She did not respond to a request for comment.

Neither the teacher nor the student was identified.

The student’s tweets sparked scores of online responses echoing her outrage, with some people urging her to hire a lawyer, and offering sympathy.

It also prompted someone to question her complaints.