Law & Courts

Okla. District, Muslim Student Dispute Head Scarf

By Marianne D. Hurst — October 22, 2003 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A Muslim student who was suspended twice by her Oklahoma school district for wearing a head scarf was back in school last week.

Nashala Hearn, a 6th grader who attends the 400-student Benjamin Franklin Science Academy in Muskogee, was suspended for a total of eight days this month for violating the district’s dress code. The girl’s parents said she wore the veil for religious reasons, and they have threatened to sue the district.

“It’s an issue of safety,” said Eldon Gleichman, the superintendent of the 6,300-student Muskogee district. Its long-standing dress code prohibits students from wearing any type of headgear, including caps, hats, and scarves.

Mr. Gleichman said allowing an exception to the policy for religious reasons would undermine it by showing favoritism to a specific group and compromise the religious neutrality of the public school system.

Lawsuit Threatened

The Rutherford Institute, a legal-advocacy group based in Charlottesville, Va., plans to file a lawsuit against the district if the policy isn’t altered. The group says the policy violates students’ rights to free speech, expression, and exercise of religion.

According to district officials, Nashala started the school year wearing a transparent veil, but then began to appear with her head, chin, nose, and mouth fully covered. She also requested and took time to pray during instructional time, Mr. Gleichman said, which he maintains was disruptive and interrupted her education.

The issue came to a head on Sept. 11, when the school’s principal asked her to remove the veil, district officials said. When she refused to do so, she was suspended this month, first for three days and then for five days.

The student’s parents, who met with district officials last week, have agreed to send their daughter back to school for two weeks, wearing only the light veil.

Charles Haynes, a senior scholar with the First Amendment Center in Nashville, Tenn., said Oklahoma law specifically protects the student’s right to wear the head scarf.

“The school district would be wise to rewrite its policy,” he said, to include an exemption from the dress code for religious reasons.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure Webinar
A New Era In Connected Learning: Security, Accessibility and Affordability for a Future-Ready Classroom
Learn about Windows 11 SE and Surface Laptop SE. Enable students to unlock learning and develop new skills.
Content provided by Microsoft Surface
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Making Technology Work Better in Schools
Join experts for a look at the steps schools are taking (or should take) to improve the use of technology in schools.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
The ABCs of ESSER: How to Make the Most of Relief Funds Before They Expire
Join a diverse group of K-12 experts to learn how to leverage federal funds before they expire and improve student learning environments.
Content provided by Johnson Controls

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts Conservatives’ Checklist: U.S. Supreme Court Education Decisions to Overrule
Here are five education issues that could be targets for reconsideration if Roe v. Wade falls.
3 min read
The Supreme Court in Washington, Dec. 3, 2021. The Supreme Court has turned away a plea from parents to block a new admissions policy at a prestigious high school in northern Virginia that a lower court had found discriminates against Asian American students.
The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Dec. 3, 2021.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Law & Courts Leaked Abortion Draft Has Supreme Court Education Cases in Political Cross-Hairs
Conservatives have taken aim at decisions on educating immigrants, race in admissions, and religion. Liberals have some cases in mind, too.
8 min read
supreme court SOC
Getty
Law & Courts 'Brown v. Board' Cited in Draft Supreme Court Opinion to Back Overturning Abortion Rights
The leaked opinion in a case still to be decided by the Supreme Court cites landmark decisions including Brown v. Board of Education.
7 min read
A crowd of people gather outside the Supreme Court, Monday night, May 2, 2022 in Washington. A draft opinion circulated among Supreme Court justices suggests that earlier this year a majority of them had thrown support behind overturning the 1973 case Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion nationwide, according to a report published Monday night in Politico. It's unclear if the draft represents the court's final word on the matter. The Associated Press could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the draft Politico posted, which if verified marks a shocking revelation of the high court's secretive deliberation process, particularly before a case is formally decided.
A crowd gathers outside the U.S. Supreme Court Monday night after the leak of a draft opinion suggesting the court intends to overturn the 1973 <i>Roe v. Wade</i> precedent that legalized abortion nationwide.
Alex Brandon/AP
Law & Courts Supreme Court Rules Against Some 'Emotional Distress' Claims. What It Means for Schools
The dissenters say the decision means students cannot recover damages for the emotional harms of race, sex, or disability bias.
5 min read
Image of the Supreme Court.
iStock/Getty