The Watkins Mill High School girls basketball team made it to the regional finals this year for the first time. Every girl on the Gaithersburg, Maryland team got a chance to play in the championship game, except Je’Nan Hayes. The referee in the game wouldn’t let her take the floor because she was wearing a hijab.
It turns out there is an obscure rule prohibiting the wearing of head coverings, unless a student seeks and is granted a religious waiver by the state. The rule is rarely enforced, and neither Je’Nan nor her coach had ever heard of it until the championship game. Referees in Montgomery County, where Watkins Mill HS is located, never enforced the rule, but at least one referee in Prince George’s County, where the championship game was played, not only knew the rule, but was determined to enforce it.
It’s time to change that rule. It stigmatizes students, forcing observant Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others to ask for permission from the state to be allowed to play sports while wearing religious garb. Ostensibly, the rule is in place for ‘safety’ reasons, but there is no evidence that any religious head covering, including the hijab, create any safety hazard whatsoever.