Northwood High School in Silver Spring
Silver Spring, MD - Northwood High School has changed its policy regarding religious headwear.
A parent’s word is now sufficient to justify a student’s religious reason to wear a head covering, according to a letter sent home to Northwood parents Feb. 9.
The policy change came after a meeting earlier this week between the Northwood principal and the father of a Jewish student who has been at the center of recent debate over religious headwear at Montgomery County Public Schools.
When 17-year-old Caleb Tanenbaum started wearing a large, black, knitted hat to Northwood the last week of January, school administration asked him to remove it. After Caleb’s parents, Steven and Lana Tanenbaum, confirmed that it was a traditional Jewish head covering, the administration then requested a letter of justification from a rabbi.
Steven Tanenbaum saw this as unfair treatment and complained to the MCPS superintendent, as well as to several Jewish and civil rights groups. He asked for a letter of apology to the family and a reform in the policy.
After meeting earlier this week with the principal, Tanenbaum wrote an email to the administration and MCPS officials describing his plans for “a proposal to the Montgomery County Public School Board to form one unified county policy that deals with head coverings, and specific due process to remedy any conflicts. My goal is to ensure that no discrimination, intentionally or unintentionally ever occurs again with regards to this matter.”
In the same email, he also wrote the following: “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.”
The “attacks and unproductive comments” refer to the hate mail and anonymous phone calls that the Northwood principal has received since the incident was made known locally and internationally.
Assistant Principal Linda Wolf, who has worked at Northwood for seven years, called the hate mail “nasty and personal stuff.”
The sad thing is that nobody wins from this,” she said in an interview with Patch. “The community has started becoming divided. I just feel bad that it’s caused a rift.”