MILLCREEK, Utah — A student at Millcreek Elementary named Maram Al-Shammari is sharing her bullying experience to raise awareness about the importance of religious expression.
“It means a lot. It means peace. I love my religion,” Maram said.
As a devout Muslim girl, Maram's hijab is a critical part of her cultural identity.
“A woman who doesn't wear the hijab is most likely to get sexual assault and abuse then a woman that does wear it because she covers up,” Maram said.
It’s a piece of her identity that was ripped away from her.
“In fourth grade a bully came, I was praying during recess and he pulled it off," Maram said. "My fourth grade teacher took sides. She took sides quickly and she took sides with the bully."
It's left Maram scarred and scared, but Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley said their investigation determined it wasn't religious harassment; just a nine-year-old boy acting inappropriately.
“This student, who was the perpetrator, is also a refugee so really literally it was really clear there was no indication that this was any sort of religious harassment,” Horsley said.
Horsley said the young boy was disciplined.
“The school also took the extra step to ensure that this child understood the implications of the sacred nature of that religious garment,” Horsley said.
To make sure this issue doesn't continue in Utah public schools, Refugee Justice League advocate Mckell Withers has written a letter to superintendents across the state, encouraging them to adopt religious clothing guidelines.
“We expect everybody to not only play on the same playground but to learn about each other in a way that we not only understand and respect the differences, but we see the advantages those differences make for our whole society and community,” Withers said.
You can read a sample of the letter sent to Utah superintendents here.