Bill to Prevent Discrimination Against Natural, Protective, and Cultural Hairstyles Advances

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On Monday, a bill that would make it illegal for school dress codes to forbid natural, protective, or cultural hairstyles was advanced 8-6 by the House Civil Law & Procedure Committee.

HB41, as written by Rep. Candace Newell (D-New Orleans) would prohibit public schools from creating dress codes forbidding natural, protective, and cultural hairstyles, including Afros, dreadlocks, twists, locs, cornrows braids, Bantu knots, and curls. A similar bill (HB 667) failed in the same committee last week.

“No one should be penalized for embracing their natural hair,” said Newell. “Fourteen states have already taken this important step and we must be the next state to do so. Next stop, the House floor!”

According to recent research, 53 percent of Black mothers reported their child experienced hair discrimination at only five years old, and approximately 86 percent of Black teenagers who reported experiencing discrimination had experienced it by age 12. This has been proven to have a profound impact on Black children’s self-esteem, particularly Black girls. Researchers found that 81 percent of Black girls attending majority-white schools reported sometimes wishing their hair was straight.

Dove CROWN 2021 Research Study For Girls InfographicNewell’s bill is modeled after the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act which was passed by the US House of Representatives on March 18, 2022. The national CROWN Act prohibits employment discrimination “based on the individual’s hair texture or hairstyle, if that hair texture or hairstyle is commonly associated with a particular race or national origin (including a hairstyle in which hair is tightly coiled or loosely curled, locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots and Afros).”

However, several states are refusing to wait for Congress to act. Fourteen states, including Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have already passed similar legislation. Several other state legislatures, including Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Tennessee, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico are also seeking to pass versions of the CROWN Act in their states.

These bills are being championed by Dove’s CROWN Coalition, a national alliance of over 85 organizations, including the National Urban League Color of Change and Western Center on Law & Poverty. You can see a full list of the coalition’s member organizations here.

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