Oklahoma Sixth Grader Suspended over Muslim Head Covering

November 5, 2003

Source: Religion News Service


On November 5, 2003 the Religion News Service reported that "a Muslim girl who was suspended twice for wearing a religious headscarf to her Oklahoma public school has filed a suit saying her rights to free speech and religious exercise have been violated. The Rutherford Institute, a Virginia-based civil liberties organization, filed suit Oct. 28 on behalf of Nashala Hearn, an 11-year-old student at the Benjamin Franklin Science Academy, a public middle school in Muskogee, Oklahoma. According to the suit, Hearn was suspended twice in October for violating the school district's dress code. The dress code bar students from wearing "hats, caps, bandannas, plastic caps, or hoods on jackets" in school buildings... The suit seeks a declaration by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma in Muskogee that the use of the dress code to prevent Hearn's wearing of the hijab violates her rights to free speech and religious exercise. 'School districts that pay lip service to pluralism and diversity but send a message of exclusion to religious adherents whose faith imposes certain dress requirements repudiate those same values in practice,' said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, in a statement."