BURKE, Va. -- Dozens of students walked out of class at a Virginia high school, Friday. It was a protest in support of a teacher who was disciplined after a student claimed he pulled off her hijab.
So my hijab was ripped off my head today.— ?? (@yasmemee) November 15, 2017
Tech teacher Lesmond Saunders of Lake Braddock Secondary School was put on leave after a student posted on Twitter that he had pulled off her hijab. The girl wrote that he came from behind and "ripped off" her hijab.
But a student who claims to have witnessed the incident said she left out an important fact: the student was wearing a hood on top her her hijab.
Bethany McCarthy was sitting just a few seats behind the girl. "Mr. Saunders asked her if she could take her hood off two times; and she, I'm not sure if she didn't hear it or if she like, just kind of refused. But then he came behind her and kind of like swiped the hood off. And, I think it was static electricity or something because her clothes were sticking together, so the hijab came off with the hood," says McCarthy.
"And at first, he was just kind of stunned. And he did not say. 'Oh your hair looks pretty,' or anything like that. You could just tell in his face that he felt really bad and it happened really fast. As soon as it happened, she got up and sprinted out of the room before he could really say anything," said McCarthy.
McCarthy said Mr. Saunders sought out the girl's asking if she was okay and said he wanted to apologize to her.
Several students who spoke to 11Alive's sister station, WUSA, said Saunders was a kind and respectful person would never intentionally pull off someone's hijab. They criticized the girl for posting the incident on Twitter and said it has been "blown out of proportion."
A boy who knows the girl said he thinks she and the teacher made a mistake.
"I come from a Muslim household. For a girl getting her hijab pulled off, it's like extremely disrespectful. At the same time, both of them are in the wrong. Mr. Saunders shouldn't have touched her and then she shouldn't have had her hood on," said Ahmed Ibrahim, an 8th-grade student at Lake Braddock.
Several students posted their support for Saunders and pictures of him on social media. One post showed Saunder wishing an ill student well.
The students say it was a mistake because the girl had a hoodie on over her hijab, and Mr. Saunders had asked her to remove the hood, and when she didn't, he pulled the hood, and the hijab came with it.
WUSA9 reached out to both Mr. Saunders, and the girl who had her hijab pulled off and neither responded. Mr. Saunders is on leave until the school system finishes its investigation.