16-year-old Noor Alexandria Abukaram participated in a cross-country race, but later found out she had been disqualified because she was wearing a hijab. She took to Facebook to recount the incident.
She wrote that race officials inspecting the team’s uniforms had an issue with one runner because her shorts did not match what the rest of her team was wearing. The runner was then allowed to change and participate in the race.
"Immediately, I began to wonder if they were going to call on me next since I was wearing all black pants and hijab. I have been a student athlete my entire life, and every time we compete, the thought crosses my mind during uniform checks," she wrote.
"At this point, the girl on my team changed her shorts and I was relieved that they had not said anything to me," the post continued.
However, she became anxious when she saw her coach speaking with officials. She competed wearing a Nike athletic hijab. After the race, she noticed that her time had not been recorded on the board.
"At this point, I'm confused and was confident that this was a mistake so I walk over to the rest of my team and say to them, 'Hey guys my name isn't on the list.' They all stared at me blankly and finally they said, 'you got disqualified,'" she wrote.
She was then informed that she had been disqualified because of her hijab. She wrote: "Immediately my heart drops, I become nauseous and feel like I got punched in the gut. This is something that I had always feared which has now become a reality. I just walked away and my teammates didn't say anything else."
Her coach later told her that she had to fill out a waiver ahead of the competition if she was to be allowed to race with the hijab on. "He assured me that he will get this waiver signed and I will race at the regional invitational the following weekend which is this coming weekend," she wrote.
She stated that during the entire season, officials never mentioned any uniform violation, or the waiver.
OHSAA 2019 Cross Country Manual states that "religious and medical alert medals are now legal," but, "a competitor who requires an exception to the uniform rules because of religious restrictions or otherwise, must submit a request for a variance from the OHSAA via e-mail. If the variance is granted, a written, signed approval of the variance must be presented to the referee prior to competition.”
OHSAA sent a statement to CBS News regarding the matter. It read: "The official was simply enforcing this rule since a waiver had not been submitted. After the race, the OHSAA communicated with the school, which then submitted a waiver request. The request was approved immediately, which will permit the student-athlete to compete this weekend at regional competition."
The statement said that OHSAA was looking into the regulation and may "modify it in the future, so that religious headwear does not require a waiver."