6th Grader Wins Headscarf Battle
- ADC Commends DOJ for Protecting Student's Right to Wear Headscarf in
ADC welcomes the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division's
complaint against an Oklahoma school district for violating the
constitutional rights of a student by denying her the right to wear
her hijab (headscarf) to school. ADC views this 14th Amendment-based
complaint, which aserts equal protection for the student in question,
as an important step in preserving equal rights for Americans Muslims.
The Civil Rights Division made the announcement yesterday that it
would "seek to intervene in a lawsuit pending against the Muskogee,
Oklahoma Public School District to protect the right of a sixth-grade
Muslim girl to wear a headscarf to school."
According to the complaint, filed today in the U.S. District Court
for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, the student was twice suspended
from the Benjamin Franklin Science Academy for refusing to take off
her headscarf, or hijab, after being told that it violated the
school's dress code. That code prohibits students from wearing hats,
caps, bandanas, or jacket hoods inside school buildings. The girl and
her parents filed suit in October 2003.
The Justice Department, in addition to its complaint, filed a motion
to intervene in the private litigation. The case is entitled Hearn et
al. v. Muskogee Public School District 020. "No student should be
forced to choose between following her faith and enjoying the
benefits of a public education," said Assistant Attorney General R.
Alexander Acosta. "We certainly respect local school systems'
authority to set dress standards, and otherwise regulate their
students, but such rules cannot come at the cost of constitutional
liberties. Religious discrimination has no place in American schools."
According to the DOJ, "The complaint alleges that the school district
violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to
the Constitution, which bars states from applying dress codes in an
inconsistent and discriminatory manner. The complaint asks the court
to prohibit the school district from discriminating against the
student, and to have the dress code policy revised to ensure that
discrimination on the basis of religion does not continue."
MUSLIMS WELCOME JUSTICE DEPARTMENT HIJAB DEFENSE
DOJ supports religious attire of OK Muslim student
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 3/31/04) The Council on American-Islamic
(CAIR) today welcomes a Department of Justice (DOJ) decision to
support the right of an Oklahoma student to wear an Islamic head
scarf, or hijab.
School officials in Muskogee, Okla., had suspended the Muslim sixth-
grader twice last fall because they claimed her hijab violated their
dress code policy prohibiting hats, caps, bandanas or other headwear.
A CAIR alert about the girl's suspension drew international media
attention and prompted hundreds of concerned Muslims to contact local
and state education officials to request religious accommodation.
School district officials subsequently allowed the Muslim student to
attend classes pending a review of the dress code policy.
The girl's parents filed suit against the Muskogee School District
last October. Yesterday, the federal government filed a motion in the
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma to support
of the family's lawsuit. (Hearn et al. v. Muskogee Public School
"No student should be forced to choose between following her faith
and enjoying the benefits of a public education," said Assistant
Attorney General R. Alexander Acosta in a DOJ news
release. "Religious discrimination has no place in American schools."
"This significant legal step may help set a precedent that will
benefit students of all faiths," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad
Awad. "Our government's action also sends a clear message to the
international community that America will defend its citizens'
Earlier this year, France moved to ban Muslim head scarves in public
schools. Other countries, even some with Muslim-majority populations,
have or are considering similar bans.
The DOJ complaint alleges that the school district violated the equal
protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution,
which bars states from applying dress codes in an inconsistent and
discriminatory manner. CAIR also cited the Oklahoma Religious Freedom
Act as legal support for religious accommodation. That act
states: "No governmental entity shall substantially burden a person's
free exercise of religion."
CAIR, America's largest Islamic civil liberties group, is
headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has 26 offices nationwide and
CONTACT: Rabiah Ahmed, 202-488-8787 or 202-439-1441, rahmed@cair-
U.S. TO DEFEND MUSLIM GIRL WEARING SCARF IN SCHOOL
Terry Frieden, CNN, 3/31/04
WASHINGTON- The Justice Department announced Tuesday the government's
civil rights lawyers have jumped into a legal case to support a
Muslim girl's right to wear a head scarf in a public school.
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Alex Acosta said
government lawyers would support 11-year-old Nashala Hearn, a sixth-
grade student who has sued the Muskogee, Oklahoma, Public School
District for ordering her to remove her head scarf, or hijab, because
it violated the dress code of the Benjamin Franklin Science Academy,
which she attended.
The girl continued to wear her hijab to school and was subsequently
suspended twice for doing so. The family appealed the suspensions,
which were upheld by a district administrative hearing committee.
Her parents filed suit against the Muskogee School District last
On Tuesday the federal government filed a motion in a federal court
in Muskogee to intervene in support of Nashala's position...
The Council on American-Islamic Relations -- which has often been
critical of the Bush administration's policies -- praised the
government's support in the case.
"This moves comes in a time when the Muslim community feels like they
are being singled out and their civil rights threatened," a statement
from the group said.
"The news also sends out a message to the international community,
especially some European countries where the wearing of the head
scarf is being banned, that America will defend its citizens'
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