A Sikh student in the US state of Pennsylvania was allegedly removed from a high school-level football game by a referee for wearing a turban, according to media reports.
Officials from the Marple-Newtown School District said the incident occurred on Tuesday when the high school student was playing against the Conestoga High team, according to WPVI-TV.
Witnesses said the referee would not allow the player onto the field because he was wearing the turban in compliance with his Sikh faith.
The referee reportedly cited National Federation of High School Soccer rules that state: “Illegal equipment shall not be worn by any player. Types of equipment which are illegal include, but are not limited to helmets, hats, caps or visors.”
According to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), districts can apply for exemptions from such rules by requesting certain players be allowed to wear religious items, said WPVI-TV, an affiliate of the ABC news.
Marple Newtown School District officials were informed about the incident and have opened a probe to find out if the player’s religious rights were violated by the decision, it said.
In a statement, school district attorney Mark Sereni wrote, “Our district was surprised to learn yesterday that, according to a PIAA soccer referee’s decision, the PIAA apparently does not have a rule that reasonably accommodates the wearing of religious headwear by our student athletes who play soccer.”
“Our district is investigating this ruling and has advocated and will continue to advocate for the rights of our student athletes to appropriately wear religious headgear,” Sereni said.
The district officials added that there is no reason to believe the motive was to restrict the student’s religious freedom, the report said.