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It is now illegal for Illinois schools to discriminate against any hairstyles. On Aug. 13, 2021, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the bill aimed at ending hair discrimination. The new law bans private and public schools from prohibiting “hairstyles historically associated with race, ethnicity, or hair texture, including, but not limited to, protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.”
Now schools cannot make rules against students having braids, cornrows, and dreadlocks. “For so many people, how you dress and how you look is an expression of who you are.” Pritzker added that for other people “the choices [are] as simple as deciding what makes them [feel] the most comfortable and confident in their own skin. ”
That should be the beginning and the end of the conversation. But for decades, Black people have too often had their natural and protective hairstyles weaponized against them.
After Pritzker signed the bill into law he tweeted that he was “proud” Illinois is “continuing to make powerful strides in transforming the culture of our schools.”
Back in May, the bill was passed by both the Illinois House and Senate. Before Pritzker signed it, the bill was sent back to the Senate for a new name. The bill — Jett Hawkins Law — is named after a 4-year-old Chicago boy who was discriminated against when he was told he could not wear his new braids to school.
Gus “Jett” Hawkins’s mother braided his hair and he was so excited to show off the new do in school. Officials at Providence St. Mel school called his mother to inform her his hairstyle went against the school’s dress code. After hearing about the discrimination against the young boy, Sen. Mike Simmons (D-Chicago) wrote the bill.
After Pritzker made it illegal for schools to put hair discrimination into their school dress codes, Simmons tweeted his thank you to the Illinois Governor.
We have turned the page in Illinois so that Black youth can come to school and wear their hair in a way that honors their heritage without being traumatized by outdated and racist policies.
He also thanked Hawkins’s mother, Ida Nelson, for fighting back against the school’s discrimination against her son’s braids. The new law will allow children to be able to style their hair and proudly wear it to school.
Written by Sheena Robertson
Patch: Hair Discrimination Now Illegal In Illinois Schools Under New Law; by Shannon Antinori
Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Deborah Cooper-Asberry’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Anthony Spates’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License