A seasoned teacher is still banned from work 16 months after she was accused of deliberately pushing a hijab off a second grader’s head in class, sparking months of ugly confrontations.
Tamar Herman remains on paid leave from Seth Boyden Elementary School in Maplewood, following the October 2021 incident involving eight-year-old Sumayyah Wyatt.
Herman claims she thought Sumayyah was wearing a hoodie, which she wanted to take off in class.
But Sumayyah’s parents, Cassandra and Joseph, said the action was deliberate and accused the teacher of being Islamophobic.
Tamar Herman, who worked at Seth Boyden Elementary School in Maplewood, New Jersey, was put on administrative leave and had to move and seek protection after receiving threats with her life following the October 2021 incident
Joseph began a vicious anti-Semitic diatribe against Herman, who is Jewish, when approached about the incident by the Washington Post.
Accusing Herman of deliberately pulling off the head covering, he said: ‘They (Jews) think they are chosen by God.
“They come with the money. They monopolize a lot of stuff for money.
“The Jews – the Semites – they run Hollywood. They run many things. They are all Jewish names.’
“There has always been a conflict with the Muslims and the Jews… That’s why they are fighting in Palestine. He also claimed that the teacher “never apologized.”
Herman says Cassandra Wyatt showed up at her door in early 2022 saying Sumayyah missed her and the incident was blown out of proportion.
She has now filed two lawsuits; one against her employer for not providing her with a fair trial.
Despite the long time that has passed, no attempt has been made to lift an investigation.
Another lawsuit was filed against Selaedin Maskut of the New Jersey chapter of the Muslim rights group CAIR.
Also included in that second lawsuit is Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, a local Muslim woman who turned against Herman after the incident and publicly shamed her online.
Shockingly, Herman and Muhammad had previously been friends, with Herman citing the hijab-wearing sportswoman as an inspiration to her students.
Herman says that both Maskut and Muhammad slandered her by labeling her a racist.
Muslim Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad publicly shared the claims on social media. She is pictured in the fencing event at the 2016 Rio Olympics
Sumayyah Wyatt, 8, is the second-grader at the center of the hijab controversy
CAIR intervened and called for Herman’s immediate resignation. Mohammed also started a petition on Change.org that garnered nearly 1,000 signatures to bring attention to the matter.
“Herman told the student that she had beautiful hair and that she no longer had to wear a hijab to school,” Muhammad wrote to her thousands of followers on Facebook and Instagram.
“Imagine being a kid and taking your clothes off in front of your classmates,” she said. “Imagine the humiliation and trauma this experience has brought her.”
The 2016 Olympic medalist, who graduated from the South Orange-Maplewood, New Jersey school district, is also an author of children’s books and has written books that celebrate the hijab.
Herman and Muhammed were once friends. The women both trained in the same gym and Muhammed even spoke in Herman’s class for a year.
Herman said she felt betrayed and hurt and confronted Mohammed about the messages asking her why she didn’t want to approach her first.
She then asked her to remove them because she considered Muhammad influential, claiming that her “misinformation turned my life upside down overnight.”
“I considered you a friend,” Herman wrote, according to The Washington Post. “Not only is it 100% untrue, it was very hurtful to read.”
Mohammed joked, “So Sumayyah is a liar?”
Herman replied that ‘anyone making these allegations would be a liar and she doubted that Sumayyah really said that.
But Mohammed never responded to Herman and has since filed a lawsuit claiming Muhammed’s smear campaign ruined her teaching career and resulted in threats to her life.
Herman’s attorney Samantha Harris said “the misinformation being shared on social media has done Ms. Herman tremendous harm.”
She continued “after more than 30 years of dedicating her heart and soul to children of all backgrounds, (Herman) must now seek police protection due to the threats she is receiving following the spread of false information on social media.”
Sumayyah Wyatt’s mother, Cassandra Wyatt, told ABC7 that the teacher had to ‘pay’ for the incident
Seth Boyden Elementary School teacher Tamar Herman was accused of removing a 2nd grade student’s hijab, and her lawyer says the ‘false story’ led to threats
Sumayyah Wyatt’s mother, Cassandra Wyatt, told ABC7 when the incident first occurred that the teacher had to ‘pay’ for the incident.
“She had to know it was a hijab,” she said. ‘She has to pay for that. I would like her to apologize to my daughter, then my daughter would feel better.”
“I need to introduce her to another world I’ve been trying to protect her from,” Cassandra Wyatt said.
She added that she had told her daughter that her hijab is her protection.
“Now she’s asked me, ‘Well, if this is my protection, my teacher took this off my mind.’ So how do you explain it to your child?’ she said.
The family’s lawyer called the incident “incredibly disturbing.”
“It’s very, very symbolic of disregard for her religion and definitely something that has influenced my clients in general.”
When Cassandra learned that Herman was Jewish, she posted her reaction to Facebook and listed her religion in a FacebookLive post stating, in part, “that’s why I believe she did it, now I’m furious,” The Washington Post reported.
When asked about the comments, Wyatt -whose family is black- claimed that Herman should have been more sensitive to a head covering since Jewish people also wear them.
But, added: “I think she’s racist. I think she’s anti-Muslim.’
She later modified her comments to say she wasn’t sure whether Herman was racist or anti-Muslim, the news outlet said.
Months after the incident, Cassandra unexpectedly went to Herman’s house and told her that her daughter adored her as a teacher and told her how things had gotten out of hand.
The young girl’s mother would not confirm or deny whether she went to Herman’s house, the news outlet reported.
Sumayyah Wyatt’s father said he initially wanted his children to attend private school, but then decided to attend Seth Boyden Elementary School at his wife’s urging.
Both his children, Sumayyah and her other daughter, now attend a private school.
Since the allegations, Herman told her to move and now lives in fear that someone will hurt her.
She has “devastating headaches” and sleeps poorly,” according to one of her lawsuits.
“She is damaged,” it says.
Herman has filed two lawsuits, both of which are pending.
The first lawsuit alleges that the district violated her due process rights by giving her administrative leave without a hearing, and discriminated against her based on her religion, among other things.
The second lawsuit, a defamation suit, was also filed against Muslim Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad and Selaedin Maksut of CAIR New Jersey.
The 2016 Olympic medalist graduated from the South Orange-Maplewood, NJ school district and is also a published author, having written one of two children’s books celebrating the hijab.
Herman said “the past year + has been a nightmare,” in an email response to questions.
‘For the past 20 years I have given my heart and soul to all my students. In an instant my reputation as a dedicated and caring teacher was destroyed.”
She added: “A false accusation was posted online and my life was turned upside down overnight.”
One of Herman’s friends and allies said at a school board meeting in January 2022 and just after the district attorney announced there would be no charges.
She described Herman as “a gentle person who could never have done what she was accused of.”
She also asked that the district address the anti-Semitism associated with the case.