Teen told she can't wear headscarf in JROTC parade - WSMV News 4

Teen told she can't wear headscarf in JROTC parade

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A national Muslim civil rights group has filed a complaint with the Williamson County Schools after a freshman at Ravenwood High School was told she could not march in the homecoming parade with her Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps class while wearing a religious headscarf.

Fourteen-year-old Demin Zawity told The Tennessean she felt like crying when her commanding officers told her she couldn't march. The scarf covers the hair and neck and is worn by many Muslim women as a sign of modesty.

Schools spokeswoman Carol Birdsong said the district follows military regulations for the U.S. Army program.

Zawity's mother, Perishan Hussein, contacted CAIR, who then sent a letter to the Williamson County Schools last week asking for a policy change.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations sent the Oct. 13 letter to schools Director Mike Looney asking for an apology for the teen and a change of policy for the local JROTC program.

In its letter to the school district, CAIR National Legal Counsel Nadhira Al-Khalili wrote the following:
"It is unconscionable that a school district would enforce a third party's discriminatory policy. This failure to protect religious rights sends a negative message to students of all faiths and sets a precedent that could be used to restrict the rights of future JROTC participants ... We do not believe that a prohibition on students wearing religiously-mandated head coverings serves any compelling governmental interest."

Below is a statement from LTC Matt Hackathorn, the public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Cadet Command:

"Current Army JROTC policy requires students participating in the program to adhere to a uniform standard outlined in regulations consistent with Department of the Army policy.  Based on current policy, the Senior Army Instructor and school officials at Ravenwood acted appropriately with counsel from the school's attorney. A comprehensive review of Army JROTC policy found that a full headscarf wrapped completely around the head and neck was
inconsistent attire for an official uniformed ceremony. That said, Army Junior ROTC officials are reviewing the program's current policies, regulations and procedures to ensure consistent application and enforcement of uniform standards across the Command.  Army Junior ROTC is
a world-class citizenship program that does not wish to be seen as discriminating against individuals for any reason, to include race, religion, or ethnicity."

"It's a little scary the way it's ballooned and gotten all over the place," Hussein said of the media attention the incident has gotten. "I'm not trying to be vengeful. I'm an American to the
core. There is always room for improvement."


Portions of this story are from The Tennessean

Copyright 2011 WSMV. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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