The Ohio High School Athletic Association is considering a change to its rules after a female cross country runner was disqualified for wearing a hijab, the traditional covering for the hair and neck that is worn by Muslim women.
Current OHSAA rules currently ban cross country runners from wearing any kind of head covering unless they have a signed and approved exception waiver that grants them permission to do otherwise.
At last weekend’s Division 1 Northwest District cross country meet in Findlay, Noor Abukaram, a 16-year-old member of Sylvania Northview’s team, didn’t have that waiver and was disqualified.
“Cross country runners may participate in competitions with religious headwear, provided the runner has obtained a waiver from the OHSAA and submitted to the head official before the race, since it is a change to the OHSAA uniform regulations. The official was simply enforcing this rule since a waiver had not been submitted,” OHSAA Director of Communications Tim Stried said in an emailed statement to The Blade.
Abukaram has since submitted the correct waiver, which was immediately approved, but Stried suggested the OHSAA can do better.
“The OHSAA is also already looking at this specific uniform regulation to potentially modify it in the future, so that religious headwear does not require a waiver,” Stried said.
For her part, Abukaram said she understood the disqualification but also said it was the first time she’d encountered the problem at a meet.
“I’ve been a student-athlete for as long as I can remember and wearing hijabs since 2016 ... which is why I was so appalled when there was an issue,” Abukaram told The Blade. “It’s never happened to me before, and I certainly didn’t expect it to happen to me at cross country.”