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Running after change
A two-year journey ends with victory

On February 28, 2022, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed three bills into law.  One of those bills originated in Sylvania.

At a high school cross country meet in October of 2019, Sylvania Northview athlete Noor Alexandria Abukaram ran the best time of her life.  Her exhilaration and joy quickly faded when she discovered she had been disqualified for wearing a hijab.  It was a violation of Ohio High School Athletic Association’s (OHSAA) rules.

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Noor Alexandria Abukaram at the race in October, 2019.

After the 2019 incident, the story and the hashtag  "#LetNoorRun" went viral.  The Wildcat runner was thrust into the national spotlight, appearing on Good Morning America, CNN, the BBC, and in publications such as Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and even Teen Vogue. 

Republican Senator Theresa Gavarone of Bowling Green saw the story on the news and got in touch with Abukaram.   The two met and immediately began working on a way to enact change.

After two years, their efforts have come to fruition.  On February 9, 2022,  SB 181 passed the house for its third and final hearing, the house and senate voting unanimously to pass the bill. Yesterday, Governor DeWine signed the bill into law.​

View Senate Bill 181 here

Senate Bill 181 will prohibit organizations from implementing discriminatory policies.  The bill indicates that students cannot be prohibited form wearing religious apparel during extracurricular activities.

“This piece of legislation really brought the Christian, the Jewish, the Muslim community all together in support of this," Gavarone said. “It was really just a beautiful thing.” 

Noor Alexandria Abukaram is currently a first year student at the Ohio State University.  Read her original post on social media below.

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October 2019

Published and written by Noor Alexandria Abukaram:

They were checking me and my teammates in per usual. The officials were checking our uniforms, making sure we didn’t have any uniform violations. The officials noticed a stripe on one of my teammates shorts which didn’t match the rest of the teams uniforms so they made her change into plain black shorts before 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. At this point, the girl on my team changed her shorts and I was relieved that they had not said anything to me. 


Then something suspicious was happening between my coach and the officials. I thought “why are they still talking about the shorts issue if it was resolved?” And again, the thought crossed my mind that maybe they were talking about me.

 

My coach came over to the team and one of the officials looked at him and said, “don't tell her now wait till after.” NOW, my mind is fluttering with different thoughts regarding what the officials and my coach could be talking about.  At this point, the race was about to start and I knew that I needed to clear my mind and focus on the race ahead. The race started and I started to run. I ran a great race and the thought never crossed my mind again. I finished my race, gave my teammates hugs, talked to people at the race and overall was having a great day.  

I found out my team was going to regionals and we were so happy so me and a couple of my teammates head over to the awards to get recognized then we head over to look at the placings of the race to see my time. As we looked closer, I realized my name wasn't on there. 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.” 


I did not immediately think anything of it I chuckled and asked, “why?” But they weren’t laughing, so one of the girls looks at me and says, “because of your hijab.” 
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.


At that exact moment, my dad called me and I could not stop crying on the phone. I was humiliated, disappointed, rejected and in denial. I couldn’t believe what just happened. After talking to my dad I spoke to my coach and he explained to me that in order for me to race he would have had to fill out a waiver allowing me to race and 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.


I have been running for Sylvania Northview Highschool the entire season and wasn't told by any OSAA officials about my "uniform violation" until the district meet. 


The officials did not give me the same respect that they gave my teammate who was also violating a rule when they told her to change her shorts and gave her the chance to fix her self. I wasn’t given the chance to explain myself to them because they didn’t have the decency to tell me what the issue was. 


I feel like my rights as an athlete were violated this weekend because this rule does NOT exist in writing. I should not have to get a waiver signed and approved by OSAA to allow me to race due to my religious head covering. Hijabs are not specifically prohibited by OSAA rulings.

The End
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Additional Resources:

Visit Noor Alexandria Abukaram's official activist website:

https://letnoorrun.com/

Visit Governor Mike DeWine's official website:

https://governor.ohio.gov

 

Read the Sports Illustrated original article:

https://www.si.com/more-sports/2019/10/27/