Illinois lawmaker introduces proposal to ban hair discrimination

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“No student should be forced to compromise their identity, nor should we continue to allow young people to be traumatized like this in 2021,” said Sen. Mike Simmons

An Illinois State Senator is fighting back against hair discrimination.

On Wednesday afternoon, legislation banning discriminatory hair practices in schools passed in the Senate. If passed by the House, Senate Bill 817, pushed by Senator Mike Simmons of the northside of Chicago, will apply to all private, public, and charter schools in the state, per WSILTV.

“No student should be forced to compromise their identity, nor should we continue to allow young people to be traumatized like this in 2021,” said Simmons, per local TV station to local WSIL.

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Simmons, 38, is the first openly gay Senator in the state and is of African-American and Ethiopian heritage.

On May 11th he tweeted out:

“I was glad to join @AnnaDavlantes on WGN to talk about my bill to end hair discrimination in schools. I’m proud of my African-American and Ethiopian heritage and my hair is a reflection of me and my ancestors. No student should have to compromise their identity — period.”

Illinois Senate Democrats Photo: them.us
Illinois Senate Democrats Photo: them.us

Hair discrimination in schools has consistently made headlines over the years. As reported by theGrio, a young boy named Jett Hawkins was chastised for wearing braids in school.

The little boy’s mother, Ida Nelson, was asked to take his braids out, saying that they violated the school’s policy which forbids students to wear braids, locs, and similar styles.

In a Facebook post, Nelson shared her story, saying that the policy seemed to discriminate against its students of color, despite the fact that the school is predominantly Black.

“Imagine paying $1683 a month for your children to attend a private school so that they can be educated without discrimination (Providence St Mel is a primarily Black school ) only to receive a call from the dean explaining that the new braid style that brought your son joy is unacceptable and is not tolerated based on a 30 plus year old rule inspired by the spirit of assimilation,” Nelson wrote on her page.

But Simmons’ new bill will hopefully put an end to this. It still needs to get past the House.

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“I just think in 2021 these policies are outdated,” he said during an interview with WGN radio. “I know that our schools want to be on the right side of history on this.”

The House of Representatives passed a similar legislation back in September called The CROWN Act. According to its website, CROWN stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.”

Seven U.S. states have passed similar laws against hair discrimination.

“We can’t praise the creativity and individuality of students out of one side of our mouths, and then humiliate them for their hairstyle out of the other,” Simmons said. “To do that is more disruptive and harmful to students than any hairstyle ever could be. The hypocrisy of it undermines teachers’ authority, and in practice it falls most often on students of color who view these hairstyles as part of their heritage and culture.”

Additional reporting by Tonya Pendleton

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