CIF grants waiver allowing Burbank volleyball player to compete with hair beads

A volleyball on orange background.
(Talaj/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A Burbank High girls’ volleyball player who wears beads in her dreadlocks, which is not allowed under National Federation of State High School Assn. rules, has been granted a waiver by the CIF.

The NFHS authorizes state federations to issue waivers or reasonable accommodation of its rules, including one that forbids volleyball players from wearing beads in their hair. School officials asked the Southern Section and CIF state office for an exception.

“We’re pleased with the outcome,” Burbank principal Thomas Crowther said. “We were a little surprised, frankly, that the rule is still in existence. Having this rule brought to our attention is just a reminder we still have a lot of work to do. We felt we had to support the girls because the rule doesn’t make a lot of sense and seems discriminatory in nature.”

The NFHS has faced criticism for its national rules on hair styles in recent years involving softball and wrestling participants. Last year, a softball player in North Carolina was told to remove her beads and ended up having to cut off some of her hair to finish a game. In 2018, a wrestler in New Jersey was forced to cut his dreadlocks by a referee to participate in a match.

Policy waiver memo from the CIF.
Policy waiver memo from the CIF.

The NFHS said it is in the process of looking to change its rules. In the upcoming 2022 rules book for softball, language that previously prohibited hard items to control the hair, including beads, has been removed.

An official informed Burbank coach Patrick Tyler during a match earlier this week that hair beads were not allowed. Burbank was prepared to stage a protest during a Friday match if the issue was not settled.

A CIF representative said that as long as the hair is secure and not a safety hazard, the player is eligible to participate.