COLUMBUS— State Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, has introduced Senate Bill 288, which would protect freedom of religious expression for athletes.

This legislation was inspired by Noor Alexandria Abukaram, a Sylvania Northview athlete who was disqualified from a high school cross-country race because she wore her hijab during the competition.

"Freedom of religion is a fundamental right and civil liberty in this country," said Gavarone. "My hope is that through this legislation and Noor's story we will be able to ensure that no one, regardless of religious affiliation, has to choose between playing a sport or their religious beliefs."

According to Ohio High School Athletic Association rules, participants are banned from wearing head coverings unless the athlete has been granted special permission by the official prior to the event.

Senate Bill 288 eliminates the requirement for special permission from the OHSAA, allowing athletes to participate in events while wearing items that reflect their religious beliefs.

“The whole idea from the start is to inspire real change so that this never happens to anyone ever again," Abukaram said. "Working with Senator Gavarone to draft this bill is another step towards real change.”

Senate Bill 288 will now be referred to a Senate committee for further consideration.

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