PLBC to PIAA: scrap head garb waiver rule

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 27 – State Rep. Jordan Harris and state Sen. Sharif Street, both D-Phila., met with the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association’s executive director Monday to discuss changing the PIAA’s rules requiring a signed waiver for student-athletes who wear religious head garb. The meeting was a result of 16-year-old Nasihah Thompson-King being excluded from participating in a basketball game because she refused to remove her hijab.

Harris, chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, said while the meeting was productive, it is up to the PIAA’s board to do the right thing and make the rule change.

Harris said, “Our meeting with Dr. Robert A. Lombardi, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, seemed productive. We urged the PIAA to remove the rule requiring a signed waiver for student-athletes to wear religious head garb. Dr. Lombardi agreed to bring our request to the PIAA board during their March meeting. We look forward to their decision to scrap the rule or we will be forced to look into further actions that will require them to comply with state and federal civil rights laws.”

Street said, “After meeting with the PIAA, we stressed the importance of religious headgear being included as acceptable equipment, not listed as an exception, or requiring any documentation to be shown. We are encouraged that the rules committee of the PIAA will soon advance these specific changes consistent with guidelines of numerous athletic governing bodies, with special regard to FIBA, the International Basketball Federation, and are confident we will not need to exercise legislative oversight to bring them into compliance. We stand with Nasihah, all students and all people of the commonwealth in the free exercise of whatever faith they choose.”