MAPLEWOOD — A New Jersey Olympian is at the center of a controversy at a public school where a teacher has been accused of pulling a hijab off the head of a Muslim second-grader.

Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, a Maplewood native who graduated Columbia High School, wrote on her Instagram that a teacher at the Seth Boyden Elementary School  “forcibly removed the hijab," causing the student to be humiliated and traumatized.

Muhammad said that the student resisted but the teacher was able to get it off. The teacher told the child her hair was beautiful and she didn’t need to hide it, according to Muhammad.

A hijab is a veil worn by Muslim females in the presence of any males outside of their immediate family, which covers the hair, head and chest, according to the New Encyclopedia of Islam.

'Humiliation and trauma'

"Imagine being a child and stripped of your clothing in front of your classmates. Imagine the humiliation and trauma this experience has caused her," Muhammad wrote. "This is abuse. Schools should be a haven for all of our kids to feel safe, welcome and protected— no matter their faith."

Muhammad identified the teacher in her post. South Orange Maplewood superintendent Ronald G. Taylor on Friday morning did not respond to New Jersey 101.5's request for more information.

According to RLS Metro Breaking News, the girl’s mother is a close friend of Muhammad.

Ibtihaj Muhammad
Ibtihaj Muhammad (Team USA)

Social media court

In a statement to RLS the district said it takes such allegations seriously but could not discuss the incident.

“Social Media is not a reliable forum for due process and the staff member(s) involved are entitled to due process before any action is taken,” Taylor wrote. "We must abide by our legal obligations to keep personnel and student matters confidential."

CAIR New Jersey executive director Selaedin Maksut called for the teacher to be fired and called anything less an insult t the students and parents of Maplewood.

“Muslim students already deal with bullying from peers, it’s unthinkable that a teacher would add to their distress. Islamophobia in our public schools must be addressed in New Jersey and nationwide. Classrooms are a place for students to feel safe and welcome, not fear practicing their faith," Maksut said.

"Racist teachers like this cannot be trusted around our children," he said on Twitter.

He also posted the teacher's name and posted Taylor's email address and office number.

The teacher named by Maksut and Muhammad has taught in the South Orange-Maplewood district for 20 years and earns a salary of $100,110, according to payroll records.

Muhammad wrote a book called "The Proudest Blue" about a young girl who has to be strong in the face of fellow students making fun of her hijab.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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