Hairstyles can oftentimes be the ultimate form of personal expression, especially during those formative years of adolescence into early puberty.
Many Black boys and girls, unfortunately, don’t know what that freedom feels like when they go to school since many institutions have rules in place that determine what’s considered to be an “appropriate hairstyle.” Thankfully, the state of Illinois is changing that policy with a new law prohibiting schools from ruling against braids, twists and any hairstyle historically associated with race and ethnicity.
Signed by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, the ruling was inspired by four-year-old Black student Gus “Jett” Hawkins who was instructed to take his braids out since it violated the dress code at his school in Chicago. Fittingly enough, the measure was actually named after him, officially being called the Jett Hawkins Law.
Here’s what Jett’s mother, Ida Nelson, says of the bill after her awareness campaign sparked change, via AP:
“For us, this is bigger than just hair. Our hair is an extension of who we are as a race and is deeply connected to our cultural identity,” Nelson said. “This is one huge step towards improving the mental health outcomes for our children, as it ensures that they will be in healthier learning environments.”
The legislation got help thanks to sponsorship by state Senator Mike Simmons, a Black lawmaker who proudly rocks dreadlocks, who also told AP, “Black youth in school settings shouldn’t have to be restricted by outdated and often racist dress codes that only serve to humiliate students of color who want to wear their hair in a style that honors their heritage, ancestry, and culture.”
The Jett Hawkins Law officially goes into effect beginning Jan. 1, 2022, and we definitely hope this trend spreads like wildfire across America’s educational system.
Hair discrimination is not limited to Illinois.
One school in Ohio proved that truth just about a year ago when the Zion Temple Christian Academy in Avondale told a family that sports dreadlocks their six-year-old child would not be allowed at the school because of the hairstyle.
The City Council approved an amendment to Cincinnati’s anti-bias law the year before to ban discrimination based on natural hair. However, the law exempts religious groups.
The school staff told the student’s mother that the hairstyle goes against the school’s policy because of its length and style.
This is America.
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