COLUMBUS — The Senate unanimously passed legislation today, sponsored by State Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, protecting freedom of religious expression for athletes.

According to the 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 Senate sent a strong, unanimous message today about all Ohio student-athletes’ right to religious expression,” Gavarone said. “We are one big step closer to ensuring that no student in this state has to choose between playing the sport they love and their religion.”

Senate Bill 288 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.

“The opportunity to work with Senator Gavarone was such a blessing. In which we were able to initiate change not just for my self but for all students across the state of Ohio,” Abukaram said. “The process was made so easy in the Senate and I pray for the best in the House. We will continue to work with lawmakers and our communities to make strides towards fair policies so that we can continue to do the things we love.”

Senate Bill 288 will now be sent to the Ohio House for further consideration.

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