The Utah High School Activities Association Board-of-Trustees recently approved language strongly condemning unsportsmanlike behavior such as taunting and harassment, according to Jon Oblesby, the assistant director of the Utah High School Activities Association.
The association’s governing board approved language for the UHSAA Handbook that strongly condemns taunting and harassment on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, creed or national origin. The approved policies and procedures will be included in the UHSAA Handbook, said Oblesby.
The language that is approved for inclusion in the UHSAA Handbook reads: “The Utah High School Activities Association believes that all individuals should be treated with respect and dignity. Students should be able to participate in UHSAA-sponsored activities in an environment that is free from racial slurs, racial harassment, and racial discrimination.
“Furthermore, the UHSAA disapproves of any form of taunting that is intended to embarrass, ridicule or demean others under any circumstances, including on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, creed, or national origin. It shall be a violation of this policy for a participant in UHSAA activities to engage in racial harassment, racial violence, or taunting. For the purpose of this policy, the UHSAA considers participants to include student-athletes, coaches, parents and fans.
Racial Harassment: Racial Harassment consists of conduct relating to an individual’s race when the conduct:
- Has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment?
- Has the purpose or effect of emotionally or unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance?
Racial Violence: Racial violence is a physical act of aggression or assault upon another because of, or in a manner reasonably related to race.
Taunting: Taunting includes any actions or comments by coaches, players or spectators which are intended to bait, anger, embarrass, ridicule or demean others.
While each participant in UHSAA activities is responsible for playing a role in creating a safe, educational experience, the UHSAA believes as a matter of policy that school principals and administrators are ultimately responsible for the conduct of groups associated with their school community during the regular season and postseason.
It shall be the responsibility of each member school principal to exercise control over all individuals to the extent necessary to ensure safety and fair play for all participations and adherence with these standards. “
UHSAA Executive Director Rob Cuff said the new policies concretely state long-held philosophies of UHSAA membership on the topics of sportsmanship and fan behavior, said Oblesby.
“A role of our staff and member school administrators is to expect high levels of sportsmanship and fan behavior by enforcing standards of excellence within all of our activities at all times,” he said. “We can accomplish this together by creating positive learning laboratories which enhance the educational experience for high school students. We must rededicate ourselves to the traditional values and purposes of education-based activities as part of the total educational framework. It is through the implementation and enforcement of these policies and procedures at the local level in each member school that matters most.”
In addition to the policy changes, the UHSAA has established a new Diversity-and-Inclusion committee that consists of UHSAA board members, association constituents and staff members. The committee will provide guidance to UHSAA member schools on educational initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion in their school and local communities.
The UHSAA Sportsmanship Committee will also continue ongoing work to update the Association’s Sportsmanship Handbook and Officials’ Handbook to better reflect current best practices, said Oblesby.
Cuff said the UHSAA membership is committed to providing a safe and educational environment for student-athletes.
“The UHSAA is committed to stressing educational and cultural values, promoting life skills and lessons involved in competitive activities, and fostering sportsmanship and citizenship,” he said. “By working together with our member schools, we can continue to provide quality opportunities for our student athletes in an environment that is safe and welcoming to all those who participate and attend UHSAA activities.”