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Woman says she was subjected to hijab screening before exam

Last Updated May 5, 2019 at 7:41 pm EDT

A Toronto woman is speaking out after she said she experienced discrimination inside a Centennial College classroom moments before taking one of the biggest exams of her career.

Minutes before starting a three hour psychotherapy exam, Raniya, who wears a hijab, says she was asked to follow proctors into another room for an examination she wasn’t prepared for and was not supposed to have.

“She said hide wherever and take your scarf off, we have to check you,” Raniya said. “It happened really quickly, there was no eye contact between us, she didn’t explain to me why she’s doing what she’s doing, and there was no asking of consent and permission. The authoritative way in which she said it, made me feel like I have to do this.”

She complied, but instead of removing the Muslim garb, she lifted the veil, saying the proctor inspected both the front and back of her head, her ears, and her hair before allowing her to return to the exam.

Raniya, isn’t a student at the school but was scheduled to take a final exam on Thursday for the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario.

“For the remainder of the exam I was in shock my body was shaking, I was sweating, I felt flushed,” she said. “I felt the sensation that everyone was starring at me, and I was so mistreated as if I’ve done something wrong.”

Centennial College now investigating

The proctors are hired by Centennial College, who tells CityNews this isn’t their policy, but have since learned this is something multiple proctors have been doing.

“It has now come to our attention that some Centennial invigilators have been inspecting test-takers’ head coverings prior to examinations in the Assessment Centre,” said a spokesperson for the school. “We unconditionally affirm that this is not appropriate, and we are taking immediate steps to ensure that this practice ceases immediately, and that Assessment Centre employees undergo additional training as our foremost priority to ensure that this incident does not happen again.”

Raniya didn’t know why she was singled out for the hijab screening, and neither did the college, saying there is no plausible reason for a request of this type and that the incident shouldn’t have occurred. The school adds that it has identified the proctor and has launched a formal investigation with all parties involved.

“We have fallen far short of our core values of respect, inclusion and social justice,” said the spokesperson. “As a learning-centered college, we recognize and affirm our responsibility to model inclusion and to learn from our mistakes.”

Yardstick Assessment Strategies 

Shaken, Raniya says she returned to the exam room where the other test-takers expressed concern and asked her what happened. After sharing that the proctors asked her to remove her hijab for an inspection, at least three of them were outraged and questioned the proctors about why she was singled-out.

“Everything that I was wondering but in that moment was too shaken to ask, they asked on my behalf and the proctor in the room was dismissive and silent,” she said. “She responded that it’s not our protocol it’s Yardstick that makes us do this. That sort of gave us the impression that this has happened before and this is routine.”

Yardstick is the testing company responsible for administrating the exam that Raniya took, but the company tells CityNews this is not their policy as it relates to examination security protocols, adding that they’ve also apologized.

“We can’t imagine how what happened would have made her feel,” said Isabelle Gonthier, President and COO of Yardstick. “When we partner with test centres across the country, we include policies and training that they must follow for each of the examinations we deliver on behalf of our customers. In this case we clearly need to review these to ensure that such an event does not occur again.”

The College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO)

The CRPO issued an email statement to CityNews saying it’s concerned about what happened and are in contact with all parties involved with this examination.

The spokesperson said no one from the CRPO was present at the time of the incident, but are now gathering further details on why this incident occurred and to ensure no students feel “targeted or marginalized at exam sittings.”

“The experience of writing the registration exam should never be anything less than fair and professional,” said Sabina Hikel, a spokesperson for the CRPO. “Islamophobia, discrimination and harassment are never acceptable in any situation.”

“They’ve labeled it as Islamaphobia, harassment, discrimination and I really appreciate that,” Raniya said. “It’s very important to call it out for what it is, it has a name, it’s discrimination.”

Raniya, who is a mother of two young boys, had been preparing for this exam for months after completing her masters and clinicals. Though she is expected to get the results in six weeks, she’s now concerned that this incident could impact her future.

“It was very upsetting, hurtful and it definitely impacted the way I was working on my exam that day,” said Raniya. “I wasn’t able to give it my best, I wasn’t fully present. I was focusing on getting this thing done as soon as possible, going home, feeling safe and away from this place.”

She has since spoken out about this experience on social media and says she’s received messages from other Muslims who said the same happened to them.

“I felt it was important to bring recognition to the fact that these things do happen,” she said. “People of minority groups are subjected to discrimination in their everyday lives, they have to carry that, and it impacts them.”