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Mastery Charter Student Benched For Wearing Hijab Sparks Rule Change

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It's a victory for religious freedom sparked by a Philadelphia teen who loves the game of basketball.

Mastery Charter sophomore Nasihah Thompson-King has been playing basketball since seventh-grade. She loves the game but was shocked that she was asked to remove her traditional Muslim hijab headgear during a playoff game back in February.

"It was our second playoff game against Palumbo and when it was time for me to get in the game a referee told me I couldn't play with my hijab on. I had to take it off if I wanted to play, so I decided just not to play," said Thompson-King.

At the time, the referee was enforcing a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association rule requiring athletes to get prior approval for any head garment for religious or medical reasons. But Thompson-King had never had a problem wearing her hijab before.

Student Pushing Back After Being Benched For Wearing Hijab

"I just didn't wanna take it off because of my religion," she said.

The incident sparked outrage over the constitutionality of the policy and calls for PIAA rule changes. That's when Pennsylvania state Sen. Shariff Street got involved.

Nasihah Thompson-King
Credit: CBS3

"We're asking you to change your rule books to accommodate First Amendment rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression," Street said.

This week, the PIAA did change its policy, now stating that religious headwear is permitted without prior approval.

"I was excited when I was told the news and I was happy for myself and anybody else who wears a hijab when they play basketball so they won't have any questioning about the hijab," said Thompson-King.

Seeking Change: Rule Keeps Student Off The Court For Not Removing Hijab

"I'm absolutely proud of my Nasihah, that's my only daughter and I'm so proud of her, of what she's done and playing basketball and also taking a stand," said Nasihah's mother, Fatima Thompson.

"I have two more years of basketball to play and I'm looking forward to seeing more females and males wearing their religious head covering," said Nasihah.

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