After an uproar last weekend among school leaders and players, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association reversed its position Tuesday on allowing student-athletes to compete while wearing hair beads.
As reported by the Times Union of Albany, N.Y., NYSPHSAA officers voted unanimously Tuesday to stop enforcing a jewelry rule that prohibited hair adornments. The pause on enforcing the rule will last until the organization's governing body can meet to discuss the matter further. NYSPHSAA executive director Dr. Robert Zayas announced the decision Tuesday at a news conference at the NYSPHSAA office in Latham.
On Monday, Zayas had said the policy had been in existence for more than 20 years and that changes to it could be made only by going through a formal process.
In two recent Section II meets, athletes were told they could not compete while wearing hair beads, and several area track coaches said it was the first time they had dealt with such a stance from the state association. In a statement released Monday by the Capital Region BOCES, 30 school superintendents voiced concerns over the policy.
"Our student athletes are the winners here," Mohonasen track coach Bill Sherman said on Tuesday, the Times Union reported. "The students that were largely impacted by this new interpretation, at least in Section II, are often marginalized, they are asked to explain who they are and explain their culture. Sports should be a save haven. It hasn't been in many cases."
State Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young Jr. and state Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa released a joint statement Tuesday night that said the moratorium on the rule is a step in the right direction, but it isn't enough.
"It is imperative that the rule is not reinstated as it contradicts the Board of Regents’ and Department’s goal of making all students feel welcome and supported," the statement said.
The National Federation of State High School Associations has made several amendments in the past few years that made the rules on hair adornments more lenient.
In a release issued Tuesday prior to Zayas' news conference, NYSPHSAA stated its constitution (Article IV.2) allows for decisions to be made on emergency matters.
“In consultation with NYSPHSAA’s legal counsel, NYSPHSAA’s executive director and following the NFHS direction on hair adornments, we felt it was most appropriate to make this decision today on behalf of student athletes,” NYSPHSAA president Julie Bergman said in the Tuesday morning statement.
According to a Spectrum News Albany report, the Mohonasen track team was ready to forfeit Wednesday's meet if the athletes were asked to remove their hair beads, but instead, the students celebrated a win.