From the New York Times news section:
… By Tracey Tully
Oct. 22, 2021
MAPLEWOOD, N.J. — A 7-year-old girl came home from school earlier this month upset, impatient to tell her mother a story.
The second-grader said her teacher in Maplewood, N.J., had begun to pull off a hijab she wears as an observant Muslim, exposing her hair and prompting her to hold on to the head covering, the family’s lawyer said.
The girl’s mother recounted the story on Facebook. …
Soon, the story was cascading across the internet, drawing news crews and police cars to the front of the elementary school as the controversy roiled the liberal suburb.
Fundamental facts surrounding the Oct. 6 interaction remained in dispute, but Reddit and Instagram were awash in opinions. New Jersey’s governor weighed in on Twitter, and a statewide Islamic group demanded the teacher’s “immediate firing.”
It was the fifth week of school. The teacher, Tamar Herman, has said that she brushed back the girl’s hooded sweatshirt because it was covering her eyes, unaware the girl was not wearing her usual hijab underneath. The “moment” she realized it, Ms. Herman said, the student “kept the hood on.”
But the seconds-long interaction between a white teacher and a Black student was already firmly in the grip of an online maw, underscoring the extraordinary power of social media to quickly pass judgment
on white women, a.k.a., “Karens.”
, with little regard for accuracy or fallout.
“It’s made clear what was always kind of clear: There’s dividing lines around race and religion and identity that we have yet to really tackle in substantive ways,” said Khadijah Costley White, who teaches journalism and media studies at Rutgers University and runs SOMA Justice, a nonprofit created to promote racial justice in the school district.
Would somebody make clear what the professor said was made clear that was always kind of clear? To me, it seems clear that that this is the umpteenth example of the enormous surge of racist hate for white women. But most people don’t seem to have even noticed it.
By last week, administrators for the school district, South Orange-Maplewood, had fielded more than 2,000 emails — most from outside the state and nearly all calling for the teacher’s termination, they said. The teacher sought police protection after people showed up at her house and threatened her online, her lawyer said. …
Because the claim involved potential bias over a religious item worn to cover hair and maintain modesty, the school district stopped its investigation and it was taken over by the Maplewood Police Department and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.
“At this point we’re just trying to determine what occurred,” said Katherine Carter, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office.
Ms. Herman, in a statement, said that she asked the student to “raise the hood of her sweatshirt” because it was covering her eyes.
“With her mask on too, her whole face was covered. I gently got her attention by brushing up the front of her hood,” said Ms. Herman, who has been placed on paid administrative leave.
“The moment I realized she was not wearing her usual hijab underneath, she kept the hood on,” she said. “And the learning went on.”
The student returned to school on Monday, her lawyer, Robert L. Tarver, said. Her mother, Cassandra Wyatt, who also wears a hijab, appeared Thursday at a news conference arranged by Mr. Tarver but did not comment. She has told ABC-7 Eyewitness News that her daughter no longer wanted to wear a head scarf.
“The teacher put her hands on the child,” said Mr. Tarver, adding that another person in the classroom had recounted the story similarly. “It was not a hoodie. It was a hijab. I have seen the actual clothing.”
The same day, another parent complained that Ms. Herman threw a student’s drink in the trash, telling the child it “wasn’t water,” a permitted beverage, according to an email sent by the family and shared with Mr. Tarver.
The 493-student elementary school has the highest percentage of students of color in the district, which educates children from two neighboring commuter towns that are roughly 25 miles from Midtown Manhattan. About 56 percent of students at Seth Boyden are Black, 23 percent are white, nearly 4 percent are Latino, 2 percent are Asian and the rest identify as multiracial.
If over half the students are black, then it is segregated and can’t possibly be good. If less than half the students are black, then the oppressed black students are isolated and lonely.
… Seth Boyden has also been the focus of efforts to further desegregate the towns’ schools. The Black Parents Workshop, a local advocacy group, enlisted Mr. Tarver to file a federal lawsuit that accused the district of discriminating against students of color and allowing a wide achievement gap to persist between Black and white students.
As opposed to no other school in America.
The lawsuit was settled last year and the district agreed to make changes.
Ms. Herman has taught in elementary schools for more than 30 years and often volunteered to teach at a Hebrew school, relatives said. A former student and parents of past students described her as warm and caring, signing off emails, “Together we can make the world a better place!”
Lesson plans she sent to parents in March when classes were being held virtually included an image of a girl wearing a pink hijab while reading.
… After Ms. Herman’s Jewish faith was injected into the online discourse, the conversations on Facebook pages popular with residents of Maplewood and South Orange grew even more fraught.