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U.S. Suit Backs Teacher's Right to Use Headpiece

May 15, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The federal government has filed a religious discrimination suit to support a former Philadelphia schoolteacher who says she was denied a substitute teaching job because she wore an Islamic headpiece, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

The suit accuses the Philadelphia Board of Education and the state of Pennsylvania of barring from public school employment people who wear garb related to their religion.

The suit says the state is continuing to enforce a 92-year-old section of the Pennsylvania public school code that prohibits wearing religious clothing.

Delores Reardon, a former teacher in the Philadelphia public school system, says she was denied teaching assignments in 1984 because she wore the headpiece.

The government contends that the Pennsylvania state law conflicts with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to make reasonable accommodation to workers on the basis of religion.

The suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia by the Justice Department's civil rights division seeks to enjoin the state and school board from enforcing the public school code and to provide compensation to Reardon and any others in a similar position.

School district spokesman Paul Hanson said he could not comment.

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