Student at odds with cosmetics school over Muslim veil

by: Mike Petchenik Updated:

Sherquoia Smullen wears a customary Muslim veil over her face most of the time, but her school wants her to get written permission to do so, as per the dress code.

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. - A Sandy Springs cosmetics school student claims she's being treated unfairly by school leaders because of her religious beliefs, and a civil rights group agrees.
 

Sherquoia Smullen converted to Islam last month and wears a customary veil over her face most of the time.
 
“In the Quran, the only things that are supposed to be out are your eyes, your hands and your feet.  Everything else is sacred,” she told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik.
 
Smullen said last week, the director of the International School of Skin, Nail Care and Massage Therapy on Roswell Road called her into the office to question her about her appearance.
 
“(She) asked if I’m going to be wearing this thing every day,” said Smullen.  “I was like, ‘Are you serious?’  I was like, ‘It’s part of my religion.’”
 
Smullen said the director told her she would need to get written documentation from her religious leader, or imam, that she has to wear the veil.
 
“It bothers me,” she said.
 
Petchenik confronted school officials about Smullen’s concerns, and they defended their actions. 
 
School Director Jennifer Young told him the school has a strict dress code policy that all students must obey and that students who want to wear religious garb contrary to the dress code must account for it.
 
“It is clear they must present from their religious organization documentation proving that is the case,” said Young. “We adhere 100 percent to all compliance rules, both on a state level and a federal level.”
 
Young declined to speak specifically about Smullen’s case, citing privacy laws.
 
Anti-Defamation League Southeast Region Director Bill Nigut said the school may be violating a Fulton County ordinance dealing with religious expression.
 
“There shall be no rule, regulation that prohibits the free exercise of your religious belief, whether they’re public or private,” he said.  “You should be able to practice your religious beliefs without having someone tell you, you must have a letter before you can do that.”
 
Nigut called the policy offensive.
 
“If you walked into that school wearing a cross, would people really say you have to go get a letter from your minister so that you can wear that cross legitimately?” he said.