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Teen Suspended For Telling Muslim-American to Take Off Hijab

Heather Lawrence, a 16-year-old from Spring Hill, FL, may want to rethink what it means to be a patriotic American.

A junior ROTC member who wants to enlist in the Army next Summer, Lawrence was recently suspended for chastising a fellow student in the halls who was wearing a hijab, saying, “Take that thing off your head and act like you're proud to be an American." She first took offense at the girl when she noticed that she didn’t stand for the pledge of allegiance. Lawrence's parents, outraged that she was suspended for five days, are thinking of taking legal action. (The girl Lawrence confronted didn't complain, but a teacher overheard the remarks and reported her.)

Lawrence’s parents say that it’s Heather’s First Amendment right to “speak her mind,” but Springstead High’s principal sees Heather’s behavior as a of violation the district’s policy against bullying and harassment. According to a school staffer who asked Lawrence why she confronted the student, her harassment seemed to have a prejudicial tinge. "She began to rant,” said the staffer, “that she was enlisting and was going to Iraq and that basically because the girl looks Middle Eastern, that makes her an enemy because all Iraqis are Middle Eastern."


We’ve talked before about how Muslim women wearing hijabs seems to set a lot of people off. As for having to say the pledge of allegiance, last year the US Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a provision in Florida law mandating that people must stand for the pledge.

What do you think of Lawrence’s treatment of the hijab-wearing Muslim-American and her subsequent suspension? When does patriotism go too far?

Image Source: Getty
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 7 years
Way to be a bigot Blum!
dikke-kus dikke-kus 8 years
I know everyone has the right thing in mind with racism and treating people fairly. However the reality is Americans may never feel comfortable with Muslims living here after 911. Especially our parents and the older generations. It doesn't help that these terrorists used their religion as a reason. This type of confrontation doesn't surprise me in the least especially when you have a soldier getting ready to dodge bullets in Iraq. The ROTC student saw something or someone who seems to be the very enemy they are protecting their country against. So emotions and fears boiled over for a minute. It's all too common for foreigners who live here to strike a nerve with us when they seem to be taking advantage of our system and yet openly despise us and our ways of life. Some people will speak their minds and forget about being politically correct when they see such attitudes. This is a complicated world we live in now, and war is hell. Anyway, its not the women and children over there that are fighting and killing. I hope that ROTC kid realizes that over there.
emma-noel emma-noel 8 years
looooooool my elementary skool teachr wz outragd when da esl kidz didnt say da pledg. like littl kids who had just movd 2 the us a few weeks earlier who didnt speak english. she wzsuch a dum ho. i dnt think dis is dat big of a deal tho, if da othr girl didnt car. ppl shud just shun dat heathr girl instead. dat way she wud realiz that nothng she says matters nd wil eventually stop speaking al2gethr. actualy, they shud tel her they r throwing a party 4 her in da skool gymnasium nd hav a cake and balloonz and say ther wil b alcohol and mak her xcitd and den hav no1 show up omg dat wud b hilarious
hills hills 8 years
i completely agree with briandiesel.
secrethoughts secrethoughts 8 years
Ugh. This sort of behavior makes me sick. I hate how people conflate things. And know what's patriotic? Religious freedom and tolerance, that's what! I think that suspending that girl was the right thing to do. It sent a clear message that bullying and racism in the name of "patriotism" should not be tolerated. I also think the teacher was right to do report the girl because often a person who is bullied might be afraid to stand up for themself for fear of retaliatory behavior.
cirrus1701 cirrus1701 8 years
You do not hassle somebody over their religious garb. Period. That being said, little missy needs some type of a smack upside the head. A former boss of mine was very enlightened in the area of disipline. She would tailor her approach to the individual in question. This little girl will not benefit from "sensitivity training" in the least. In face, I would lay money on it having the opposite effect. If she's all gung ho Army, then treat her the way they do in boot camp. Run until you puke, while large men yell in your ear. What would they yell? The need for tolerance, playing nice with others, etc. The point is, all this wishy washy, rainbows and kittens type stuff is not going to work in this case. I can be polite and tolerant. That's not a problem. However, that does not mean that I have to like you. That does not mean that I have to agree with your religion, hair color, choice of favorite veggie, etc. And, it sure as heck doesn't mean that I'm going to reduce myself to dhimmi status!! Proud to be an infidel!
staple-salad staple-salad 8 years
I think the punishment is good, however, I agree that she should have to write a paper about Muslims and the Hijab and what it means to be an American in a country founded upon the ideals of freedom of opportunity and religion. Obviously JROTC girl has issues comprehending these things.
Love-and-Sex Love-and-Sex 8 years
Good point, HelloLauren. This might embitter her further with no lesson learned.
HelloLauren HelloLauren 8 years
I don't think what she said was okay, but I think she would have further benefitted from detention and sensitivity training, rather than suspension. What do you expect her to learn from this, when her own parents are up in arms about her "freedom of speech"? This will only turn herself against the school, and further against the girl that she started the whole incident with. The only way to battle ignorance is education, and I think people are quick to point the finger, and punish and make a spectacle, when what we should be doing is opening our student's eyes to the world and issues around us. I mean, the girl is 16, she's probably learning this behavior from her parents, how can you fault her for emulating them, if no one has taught her otherwise?
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 8 years
I think the punishment was just. Bigotry and rascism at it's finest. I think the school should make her write an article not only about the jihab, but also two rational arguments: one on why she feels she is entitled to her freedom of speech but that the girl she attacked is not entitled to it,and a second argument supporting the girl's right to wear the jihab and sit for the pledge of allegiance. You can't expect someone to learn that they are being a complete hippocrit if you don't make them think about both sides of the argument. I'm wondering if the school did the suspension because of the girl's ambitions with the ROTC/Army. This girl wants to join the army to protect the nation's freedoms and yet she wants to deny those freedoms to American's who differ from her views (sounds like she should run for Republican VP candidate in a few years). I hope the ROTC got the message that they need to teach this girl what the military is really about - it's not to rid the world of terrorists a.k.a. all non-christian people. This whole "I'm more patriotic/american" than you shit needs to stop. I'm sick of it - I hate rascism and bigotry - yes, you are entitled to your stupidity and lack of humanity, but don't expect/force others to behave the same way. Nobody is more American than the next person. It's a shame that people impart their rascism and hatred to their kids, which maybe I'm wrongly assuming the parents are teaching/encouraging to their daughter although I doubt I am wrong since they see nothing wrong with what she did. The school environment has a right to curtail freedom of speech since it has a duty to protect all students from harrassment. Maybe the teacher didn't have to turn it in, but maybe the teacher has witnessed similar bad behavior from this girl before towards other students or this particular student. Regardless, the school/teacher had every right to react the way they did and I fully applaud that they are not turning their back on this kind of behavior.
TidalWave TidalWave 8 years
BOTH girls were exercising their freedom of speech!!! It just so happens that one of the girls didn't like what the other one had to say....
Quanni-E Quanni-E 8 years
I know a lot of people commented and I might sound repetitive, but I'm glad that she was suspended and I agree that she should be forced to research the hijab. The sad thing is she still may not respect it. Legal action is too much. The first Amendment allows you to speak your mind, not damn anyone with it. "Patriotism" is synonymous with "terrorism" to me . Simply because you are using it to hurt someone else and to strip away their rights whether it deals with religion, sexual orientation, race, etc. Stereotypes should be done away with. This is just a sad case of what "patriotic" brainwashing does.
poissondujour poissondujour 8 years
Texasred- Just because there is an extreme minority of Muslims who are misogynistic doesn't characterize the entire religion. Grouping them all together is blatantly wrong and ignorant. There are extremists in almost every religion that treat women like chattel, but if it were a Christian victim bullied for his/her beliefs, would you say the same thing? (Extremely orthodox Jews can be, too, but I think the JROTC girl might have had a similar reaction as to the Muslim student...) Everyone belongs to some social category that has members one would hate to be associated with. The point here is that a teenage girl was exercising her right to religious freedom in the way she deemed fit. She chose to wear the hijab and was bullied for it. No one forced her to put it on. Next time, think before you paint all members of a major religion with the same brush. And there is a major difference between intelligent, informed discussion of a topic and jumping to conclusions and verbally attacking someone.
Burkina Burkina 8 years
"And how about the irony of those who will accord no one else any freedom to disagree with them, coming to this country, availing themselves of its freedoms, but demanding that nobody else be permitted the freedom to criticize them?" Are you serious? This poor girl was target to a racist. She did not demand anything from anyone. She is practicing her religion in peace and did not deserve to be put down for wearing a hijab. I think you should take a look at the story once more because you seemed to of missed the part where it says this was reported by a teacher.
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