South Orange-Maplewood resident asks school board to apologize for unfair treatment of teacher

April 19, 2022

At the South Orange-Maplewood school board meeting last night, resident Talya Rothenberg demanded that the school board formally apologize to Tamar Herman, an elementary school teacher who was falsely accused last October of having removed the hijab from a second grade student. The alleged incident unfolded on The Jerusalem Post, NBC, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, particularly after Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who attended South Orange-Maplewood Schools, posted, “Imagine being a kid and stripped of your clothes in front of your classmates. Imagine the humiliation and trauma this experience has caused him. It is abuse. Schools should be a haven so that all of our children feel safe, welcome and protected, regardless of their faith.

Even Governor Phil Murphy tweeted about it. Many media have made reference to the fact that Ms. Herman is Jewish.

Rothenberg described the SOMA School Board’s “rush to judgment” which was “biblical in proportion”. She reported that in January the child’s mother showed up on Ms Herman’s doorstep and apologized, saying ‘it’s just a total misunderstanding’ and that her child loved and missed her teacher . Rothenberg concludes: “Now is the time [for the School Board] to heal Mrs. Herman” by rectifying “the injustice you have perpetuated”.

In January, the Essex County District Attorney’s Office investigated the allegation that Tamar Herman removed a child’s hijab and concluded that “there was insufficient evidence to bring a criminal charge. in that case”.

Here are Rothenberg’s full remarks, which you can also watch at 31:10 in the video below:

“Everyone in Maplewood has heard of elementary school teacher Seth Boyden being accused of ‘ripping off a child’s hijab.’ education published information about Islamophobia, as if that was the position of Mrs. Herman. Ibtihaj Muhammad published his name and photo. The rabbis of this city published information about their indignation, as if it was Ms. Herman’s position.

Tragically, Ms Herman was accused of Islamophobia instead of who she really was: a caring teacher who wanted everyone in her class, regardless of race or religion, to learn, including a child who had something covering his eyes.

Ms. Herman’s reputation, livelihood and life as she knew it were forever dismantled and destroyed. Her life and the lives of her children have been threatened and she is literally afraid to enter our towns of Maplewood and South Orange.

Today I want everyone to listen very carefully. The BOE may know, but not the community. On January 28, the mother who originally accused Ms. Herman of the heinous act knocked on Ms. Herman’s door. And she apologized. She apologized, saying, “It’s just a total misunderstanding. My daughter loves you. She misses you. She talks about you all the time.” Ms. Herman replied, “I love your daughter too.” Later in the conversation, the mother admitted that her daughter was making things up.

This is the truth and yet the injustice is undeniable. Now is the time to heal Mrs. Herman. Tamar Herman has dedicated more than 20 years of commitment to the Seth Boyden School. I demand, many of us demand, that you publicly apologize and clear Ms. Herman’s name, take care of her for the injustice you helped perpetuate. Do whatever it takes for her. No teacher should ever have to face death threats, live in limbo, and be excommunicated from her community for trying to help a child learn. I urge those who are as outraged as me to speak up.”

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