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Tennessee For-Profit College Expels Muslim Student for Wearing Hijab, Muslim Advocates Demands Changes

Today, Muslim Advocates and the law firm Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP sent a demand letter to Georgia Career Institute (“GCI”), a for-profit college operating in several southern states, after GCI staff expelled a college student from its Murfreesboro, Tennessee campus in February 2018 simply for wearing a hijab.

The letter, addressed to GCI’s senior leadership, explains how Linde McAvoy, an esthetics student at GCI’s Murfreesboro campus, faced persistent and pervasive harassment by GCI staff after she converted to Islam and began wearing a hijab in accordance with her religious beliefs.  As noted in the letter: “Almost immediately after she started wearing it, Ms. McAvoy began facing harassment from GCI administrators. For example, Joyce Meadows—GCI’s President and CEO, who is also the Campus Director for the Murfreesboro Campus—started insisting that Ms. McAvoy remove the hijab, citing the school’s dress code.  Even after Ms. McAvoy explained that she wore her hijab out of religious obligation, Ms. Meadows insisted on its removal, despite the fact that the dress code does not prohibit religious headcoverings. Ms. McAvoy was repeatedly ejected from her classes for wearing her hijab.”

“The hostility started the moment I started wearing my hijab,” said Ms. McAvoy. “I thought GCI would be a place where I could learn a trade but instead, they took my money, openly discriminated against me and kicked me out for being a Muslim.  It’s not right and it’s not fair.”

Through the letter, Ms. McAvoy is seeking a full refund, monetary settlement, a clear dress code that does not violate federal civil rights law, and anti-discrimination training for all GCI staff and its owner to ensure that no other GCI student endures this type of harassment and discrimination.

“GCI’s behavior is reprehensible, discriminatory, and illegal. GCI receives federal student loans and has to comply with federal antidiscrimination mandates,” said Nimra Azmi, staff attorney for Muslim Advocates.  “GCI promised Ms. McAvoy a pathway to accreditation in her field, but instead expelled her simply because she is a practicing Muslim.”

Luna Droubi, Partner at Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP, said: “To force a woman to choose between her religion and her education goes against every value we have in this country. Ms. McAvoy is proudly standing up not just for herself, but for other Muslim students who should not be forced to make this impossible choice.”