Leila Durani (a pseudonym) is an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at a Boston-area school. She has taught in the same school district for ten years, receiving positive performance reviews. She says she only started having problems when she began wearing a hijab in the spring of 2009.
“I have been a Muslim for many years,” she says. “I was always fearful of what would happen if I wore a hijab to work because of exactly the situation that I am finding myself in at the present.”
After she started wearing the hijab, she was barred from teaching full-time at the school during the 2010 year. She was told if she wanted to be full time, she would have to split her time between two schools which were many miles apart.
For her teaching space, she was given a corner of a media center with no desks, no file cabinet or any sort of board to write on. She was never provided with a written schedule of when to arrive and found it difficult to move from one school to another in the time allotted.
“I tried to do my job to the best of my ability, but I was never afforded respect from the principal and other staff members,” she says.
She emailed her union representative and the principal with her concerns, but got no coherent response. Then she received a typed letter in her mailbox detailing how she had been late, but giving no specific times.
“I was crying in the hallway, with the official letter of reprimand in my hand, when another teacher who also splits between two schools asked to see my letter. He said that he had been late on a few occasions, but that all he’d received was little hand written post it notes.” He did not get a letter that was copied to the Personnel Office and inserted in his file.
“After another tense meeting with the principal, I did ask her if her behavior towards me was about my headscarf, because it really feels like discrimination to me. I left after that statement. She says I rushed out, I know I walked.”
Shortly afterwards, she received another letter from the principal saying she was late when, she says, she was on time. Then, right before winter vacation, she was formally served with a letter of intent to suspend.
“I have never had even a small argument with any former principal, and they know I have an impeccable record. The only thing they can say is that I yelled at my principal and left school. What they fail to include in the reasons is how many times they humiliated, harassed and abused me this year.”