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Teacher in Scarf Issue Resigns Post

Times Staff Writer

An Antelope Valley College instructor under fire for ordering a 19-year-old Muslim student to remove her head scarf in his class resigned Friday, school officials said.

Robert Daniel, an engineer who taught part time since 2002, resigned before the Lancaster school’s board of trustees could decide whether he should be fired, interim college President Jackie Fisher said.

“We could have dismissed him -- that was an option -- but he came in and resigned,” Fisher said.

“He will not be rehired or work here again.”

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The student, Fajr Burhan, said that when she walked into Daniel’s computer information science class last week, he told her to remove her hijab or leave.

Burhan said she refused, explaining that she wore the scarf for religious reasons. After she took her seat, Burhan said, Daniel asked her to walk outside with him. They then encountered the dean, who told Daniel he had to respect Burhan’s right to wear the scarf.

Burhan said she returned to the class, but felt uncomfortable.

Fisher said Daniel clearly had acted inappropriately.

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“You have two sides to a story, and there was no reason to doubt the student,” Fisher said. “It takes courage for a student to come forward with that kind of accusation. We believed the student.”

Daniel could not be reached for comment. Fisher would not say what Daniel told the board, saying it was a personnel matter.

Also, Fisher said school officials overruled Daniel when the college found that the teacher violated school policy when he refused to allow Burhan to add his class the first day of the semester on Feb. 18, even though a spot was open.

Ra’id Faraj, spokesman for the Southern California office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said: “We are very pleased by the quick response of the Antelope Valley College leadership president and the board. This sends the right message that we live in a country that respects freedom of religion.”

Burhan said that despite the humiliation she said she felt after her confrontation with Daniel in front of 35 students, she felt bad for him.

“I had the worst feeling about making this teacher quit or get fired, because he’s losing his job, and I didn’t want to ruin his whole career,” Burhan said.

But, “I didn’t think he could be fair. Even if he apologized to me, he would have a negative view of Muslims or women who wear the hijab.”


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