Law enforcement officials in New York City have charged a substitute teacher with a hate crime after he allegedly snatched a hijab off the head of a second-grade girl. The teacher at the center of the case is Oghenetega Edah, reports the New York Daily News. The 8-year-old student is Safa Alzockary.
The incident leading to this week’s hate crime charge occurred on May 2 at Public School 76 in the Bronx. Police say Edah told Alzockary to take off her hijab after she had failed to do something he asked her to do. The girl refused to take off the Muslim head covering.
Edah then allegedly responded by yanking the hijab across her face, causing minor irritation to her eye. New York City Department of Education officials fired Edah immediately after allegations of the fracas came to light.
“This alleged behavior is unacceptable, and he was immediately removed from the school and terminated effective May 3,” school district spokeswoman Toya Holness told the Daily News.
Prior to the hijab-snatching allegations, Edah had no record of misconduct. Edah, 31, faces two criminal charges: endangering the welfare of a child and aggravated harassment. The second charge, aggravated harassment, is the hate crime. New York City television station WPIX interviewed Alzockary, the girl, and her father.
“He said ‘I’m to take this off,’ if we were misbehaving,” the girl told WPIX. “My sister said ‘you can’t.’ I said ‘you can’t because if you did, I will tell the principal.’ And he just started laughing and he took it off.”
At an arraignment this week, a New York City judge issued an order of protection barring him from being near Alzockary. An attorney representing Edah asked the judge to prevent cameras in the courtroom for Edah’s arraignment. “This case is highly charged and places my client in great danger,” the attorney, Virginia Lopreto, told the judge, according to the Daily News.