The Essex County prosecutor's office said Wednesday it will not seek criminal charges in the case of an elementary school teacher who a parent accused of forcibly removing her daughter's hijab during class last fall.
The second-grade teacher at Maplewood's Seth Boyden Elementary School had denied the incident occurred amid mounting calls for her firing a few months ago. Tamar Herman had said she thought her student was wearing a hooded sweatshirt; she said she didn't realize it was the traditional veil worn by many Muslim women.
The county prosecutor's office, which is responsible for investigating local bias crimes, launched a probe shortly after the allegations surfaced in early October and continued its assessment for a few months.
It ultimately concluded there was insufficient evidence to sustain a criminal prosecution in the case, prosecutors said in their Wednesday statement. They said they conducted a "full investigation and a thorough review of all the available evidence" before reaching that decision.
"While we understand that many may find the incident troubling, as prosecutors we have a legal and moral obligation to only bring charges in cases where we believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has been committed," the statement continued. "For those reasons, we will not move forward with this case."
The incident in question dates back to Oct. 6 but the fallout has lasted months. The 7-year-old student's mother, Zaynab Wyatt, claimed other students remembered Herman telling her daughter that her hair was beautiful and she shouldn't cover it up with a headscarf. Then the teacher allegedly pulled it off.
An attorney for the teacher, however, has said Herman told her student to "pull down the hood on a hooded sweatshirt because it was blocking her eyes," which is in accordance with school policy.
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Once the teacher realized the student was wearing the hood "in place of, rather than on top of, her usual hijab," she retracted that, Herman's attorney has said.
The teacher was placed on administrative leave in October pending the outcome of the investigation. It wasn't immediately clear what her status was as of Wednesday.