Maryland high school changes policy on head coverings

(JTA) — A Maryland high school that came under fire for asking a student to prove he wore a head covering for religious reasons has changed its policy.

Northwood High School in Silver Spring sent a letter home to parents late last week saying that a parent’s word is enough to permit a student to wear a head covering, the Wheaton Patch reported.

The policy reportedly was changed after a meeting between Northwood principal Henry Johnson and Steve Tanenbaum, the father of Caleb Tanenbaum, 17, who was asked last month by the school’s administration to provide a letter from a rabbi explaining that he was wearing his Rastafarian-style head covering for Jewish religious reasons.

Johnson said Tanenbaum was asked to provide verification because he only recently began wearing the head covering and it did not appear to be a kippah.

After reports of the controversy appeared, Jewish community members rallied to the principal’s defense, saying he has a stellar track record accommodating Jewish students. The school is located in a heavily Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, Kemp Mill, and 15 to 20 kippah-wearing students attend the 1,500-student high school

Johnson received hate mail and anonymous phone calls following his request of Caleb Tanenbaum, Patch reported. 

In an e-mail to the administration and the county school board, Steve Tanenbaum wrote, according to Patch, “I feel that Dr. Johnson is a caring man, and has a difficult job to do, and made an honest mistake, which he acknowledges. He should be allowed to continue to concentrate on educating our children, and putting lessons learned into better teaching practices, without having to endure anymore [sic] attacks and unproductive comments.”
 

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