Pa. rule change allows student athletes to uphold religious beliefs without waivers

"We found that the waiver requirement went against our first amendment rights."

Cherri Gregg
May 28, 2018 - 5:57 pm

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Pennsylvania's Interscholastic Athletic Association has announced it’s changing a rule regarding student athletes who wear religious headwear during school sporting events.

When a referee told 16-year-old Nasihah Thompson-King to remove her hijab or sit out her basketball playoff game, last November, she chose to take a seat.

At the time, the PIAA required a special waver for all student athletes who chose to wear religious headwear during a sporting event -- but not anymore.

"We found that the waiver requirement went against our first amendment rights," explains Salima Suswell.

Suswell sits on the executive committee of the Counsel on American Islamic Relations, and also happens to be Thompson-King's aunt.

Thompson-King’s decision to stand up for her beliefs sparked activism as elected officials, Muslim leaders and others pressured the PIAA about the rule.

Suswell says she applauds the state’s programs decision to change the rule.

"Our children will not have to make a choice between upholding their religious belief and competing in sports," she adds.

Under the new rule, students can now wear hijabs, yarmulkes and turbans – without a waiver -- while participating in school sports as long as they are secure and do not contain hard objects.