High school volleyball players in Tennessee and across the country are now able to freely wear religious headwear during games.
Previously, the National Federation of High Schools handbook required approval to wear religious head coverings. The rule change came after freshman Najah Aqeel, a high school student at Valor College Prep High School in Nashville, was not allowed to wear a hijab during a match in September 2020, according to Nashville NBC affiliate WSMV.
Deeming the situation discriminatory and an infringement of First Amendment rights, Davidson County Metro Council called on the NFHS and the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletics Association to amend such rules. There were also petitions nationwide calling for a rule change. The TSSAA changed its rule at a Legislative Council meeting Dec. 10.
Valor and Aqeel worked with the NFHS to eliminate the rule nationwide, and it was approved Thursday by the Volleyball Rules Committee.
“The NFHS is pleased to see the support for Najah, and all students, demonstrated through both the NFHS Board of Directors decision, and the TSSAA decision to revise the religious headwear rule code," NFHS executive director Karissa Niehoff said in a statement. "Najah and her family have been gracious and patient throughout the significant change process; from discovery and learning through to decision-making at the state and national levels. Najah’s perspective, maturity and ability to communicate define her as a model for young people everywhere. We hope that her situation serves as a reminder of the beautiful fabric of diversity that exists in our schools and society overall."
“Faith has been everything through this journey so every day I’ve been praying that the rule has changed and everything,” Aqeel stated at a press conference on Thursday, as reported by WSMV.
“This is momentous,” said Sabina Mohyuddin, executive director of the American Muslim Advisory Council. “Muslim girls across the country who have dreamed of joining sports, but have hesitated because of the requirement to get special permission wearing hijab.”