Student suspended for confronting Muslim and saying “Take that thing off your head”
Heather Lawrence is a junior at Springstead High School in Spring Hill, Florida. She is also a member of the Junior ROTC.
During the Pledge of Allegiance at her school late August, 2009, Heather claims she saw a Muslim girl in another classroom who did not stand for the pledge. Heather confronted the girl later that day in between periods and said, “Take that thing off your head and act like you’re proud to be an American.”
The Muslim student was wearing a hijab, a traditional Muslim headscarf. Although the student walked away from the confrontation and did not report Heather’s comment, a teacher who overheard Heather reported her to the school administrators. Heather was called into the assistant principal’s office and was suspended for 5 days.
Heather later stated that she should not have commented about “the thing on her head because that had nothing to do with it.” However, Heather and her father believe that it was her free speech right to say something to the girl. Others including the school administrators believe that she crossed the line and that the incident was more about bullying and being discriminatory.
What do you think? Do you think the five day suspension was appropriate for Heather’s comments? Or was the suspension wrong as Heather was just stating her opinion and should have been protected by her right to freedom of speech? How do you perceive the comment – patriotism or prejudice?