WASHINGTON: Two Muslim students were allegedly sent home by a US school for wearing hijabs because they were not carrying a 'note' from parents to prove that they had donned the headscarves for religious reasons.
Hajah Bah and Fatmata Mansaray, both cousins and students of Freedom High School, Virginia, allege that the school administrators harassed them over their decision to don hijabs, eventually prompting apologies from Prince William school division leaders.
Bah and Mansaray were quoted as saying by Inside NoVA that they were approached by a school administrator on Thursday and told that they would need a note from a parent to prove they were wearing the head coverings for religious reasons.
When they pushed back against that assertion, they were sent to the principal's office and ultimately dismissed from the school for the day.
"Normally, I don't wear the hijab at school, but this time I did because Ramadan fell during the school year and I was fasting," Bah was quoted as saying.
"But why do I need a note if it's my religion?" she said.
As the word of the incident reached school division leaders, spokesman Phil Kavits said they, "immediately determined that it runs counter to the PWCS (Prince William County Public Schools) commitment to diversity."
He said school officials have already apologised to both girls and their families, and the division has posted an apology online.
PWCS was quoted by WJLA-TV as saying in a statement, "We regret the circumstances that led a Freedom High School administrator to question students about wearing a hijab or ask for proof of their religious reasons.
"The request was inconsistent with the PWCS commitment to diversity and religious freedom, and we apologise to anyone it may have offended."
Mansaray also contended that Thursday's incident was far from the first time she has been accosted by administrators over her head covering.
"I would explain that it's for a religious purpose, and they didn't care. I'd wear my hijab to school, and I'd be constantly told to take off my hijab," she said.
Mansaray said she and her parents were initially reluctant to secure a note proving she was wearing the hijab for religious reasons, as they "did not feel it was right".
But she felt she eventually "had to cave in" and delivered a note to the school's office. However, she claimed her encounters with administrators continued.
Since the incident, Bah and Mansaray said they have both received apologies from the school system, and have even seen an outpouring of support from their fellow students.