Referee in school soccer game bans Marple-Newtown High School Sikh player

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Referee in school game bans Sikh soccer player
Referee in school game bans Sikh soccer player. Walter Perez reports during Action News at 4:30pm on September 27, 2017.

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. (WPVI) -- A referee for a game between two local high schools ignited a controversy when he wouldn't allow a student on the playing field because of his religious headwear.

Officials from the Marple-Newtown School District say it occurred Tuesday when the high school freshman soccer team was playing an away game against Conestoga High.

Witnesses say the referee would not allow a certain Marple-Newtown player onto the field because he was wearing a headpiece in compliance with his Sikh faith.

The referee cited National Federation of High School Soccer rules stating, "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."

School district officials were notified of what happened and have since opened an investigation to determine if the soccer player's religious rights were violated by the referee's decision.

School District Attorney Mark Sereni sent Action News a statement reading:

"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."

District officials say, at this point, there is no reason to believe the motive was to restrict the student's religious freedom.


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