A Hijab-clad Muslim student in Canada has been prevented from taking an exam after she refused to show her ears to a male teacher who wanted to check if she was wearing headphones.
The young woman was asked by her male biology teacher to pull back part of her Islamic headscarf so he could see whether she was wearing headphones, said Line Legare, spokeswoman of Montreal’s College de Maisonneuve.
“She didn’t want to show him her ears,” Legare said, adding that the student offered her teacher the possibility of touching her through the hijab to make sure she was not trying to cheat.
“That made the teacher uncomfortable,” Legare was quoted as saying by The Canadian Press.
The junior college teacher then told the student that she could not take the exam that day.
Legare said the teacher made it clear at the beginning of the school year that he reserved the right to ensure students were not wearing headphones before exams.
“Whether the student had a tuque, a hat, or lots of hair,” Legare said, the teacher had written in his course outline he would ask students to show him their ears, a policy she said was condoned by the biology department.
Legare said the teacher and the student are negotiating another date for her to sit the exam.
The Montreal junior college is also trying to determine how to accommodate the student.
Legare said to her knowledge the student has not filed a formal complaint and added the school is looking at ways to ensure future “misunderstandings” are not repeated.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard was asked on Monday about the incident and replied the teacher “used his judgment” to ensure there was no suspicion of cheating.
“From what I hear, the exam will take place,” he said was quoted as saying.
“I think this shows that people on the ground are best-placed to manage these questions,” he said.
He added that his government has introduced a bill regarding religious accommodation “and we’ll have the chance to have a debate on these issues.