Oregon changes hair adornment rules for volleyball, cheerleading
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Oregon sports took a step Tuesday toward being more inclusive.
Following cases around the country of African American students being told to cut their hair to be able to compete in events, Oregon changed some of its high school sports rules.
The Oregon School Activities Association Executive Board voted Tuesday to allow students in volleyball and cheerleading to wear hair beads or other hard objects in their hair. OSAA, the governing body for Oregon high school sports, had been advocating for a similar rule change for softball before the national governing body made a recent change.
The National Federation of State High School Associations changed its rules for softball earlier this month after a North Carolina player was forced to cut her hair.
OSAA tries to align its rules with the national association, but it is out in front on volleyball and cheerleading. OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber said OSAA has proposed the rule changes to the national association but its rule changing process won’t take place until after the sports’ seasons. The softball season just ended.
The issue came to a head in Oregon in March when a Parkrose High School volleyball player was required to remove beads in her hair before competing. She said she cried while she cut out the beads in the bathroom, according to news reports.
Oregon legislators pointed to the incident before passing The CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair) Act, which explicitly forbids discrimination based on physical characteristics associated with race, such as hairstyles. The law is part of a national campaign that partly drew on outrage over African American student athletes being told they had to cut their hair to compete.
The national association’s playing rules, which OSAA follows, prohibit hard objects in competitors’ hair as a health and safety issue in some sports and activities. After the Parkrose case, Weber indicated OSAA would consult with its Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee, students, school officials and communities to revisit national policies and interpretations in Oregon.
OSAA staff studied rules and safety data on a sport-by-sport basis from other states and collegiate and professional sports. The new rules, which will be shared with school districts soon, are designed to align with The CROWN Act while still maintaining safety.
Weber said the rules changes are part of ongoing efforts to provide as many opportunities for as many students as they can. He said they wanted to be inclusive while still being cognizant of health and safety considerations.
Football, soccer, wrestling and basketball do not allow hard objects in the hair, but OSAA board members said they would like to continue to study the issue, especially with basketball.
OSAA Executive Board member Sherry Duerst-Higgins lamented the psychological and social effect on students who had been asked to change their hairstyles.
“It was absolutely needed and long past overdue,” said Duerst-Higgins, who is the Lane Education Service District board chair and a member of the South Lane School District board. “It sounds like it needs to be expanded into some of these other sports.”