NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee's high school athletic association voted Thursday to allow religious headwear during sporting competitions, the group announced Thursday.
The move comes after a September incident in which a high school freshman was not allowed to participate in a volleyball match because she was wearing a hijab. Previously, the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association had required participants who wanted to wear religious headwear during competition to seek permission first.
On Thursday, the association's legislative council unanimously approved an addition to its rules that states religious headwear — such as hijabs, turbans, and yarmulkes — is permitted as long as it is not "abrasive, hard, or dangerous to the participant and any other player." It also must be attached in a way that it is "highly unlikely to come off during play." It need not comply with the color restrictions of the sports uniforms.
At the September match where Valor College Prep freshman Najah Aqeel was not allowed to play, the referee cited a rule from the National Federation of State High School Associations rulebook requiring state association approval for religious head coverings, according to a news release from the school. Valor immediately began working to change the bylaws of the TSSAA and is also discussing eliminating the rule entirely with the National Federation of State High School Associations, according to Valor.
Aqeel said in the news release that she is honored to have been part of a change that will affect so many people. "I want to thank the TSSAA for their part in taking such a huge step in making everyone feel included in the sports arena," she said.