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In 2021 4-year-old Jett Hawkins was told that his braids (and then his ponytail) were in violation of the dress code policy at his school in Chicago. Jett’s mother, Ida Nelson, who initially worked with Jett’s school on a handbook policy that was decades old, began raising awareness regarding the concern and the impact of stigmatizing children’s hair and the impact it can have on educational development. Furthermore, Jett’s mother advocates that hair is an extension of who individuals are as a race and is deeply connected to cultural identity. Senate Bill 817, sponsored by Senator Mike Simmons (D-Chicago), was signed into law on August 13, 2021, after Jett’s story was publicized.

Illinois Public Act 102-0360PDF Document, known as the Jett Hawkins Law, prevents school boards, local school councils, charter schools, and non-public elementary and secondary schools from creating hairstyle-based dress code requirements. Specifically, the Public Act prohibits discriminating against hairstyles historically associated with race, ethnicity, or hair texture, including, but not limited to, protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists. This law takes effect January 1, 2022. Schools that do not comply with this law risk losing recognition status from the Illinois State Board of Education.

Pursuant to Public Act 102-0360 (Simmons/Harris), by no later than July 1, 2022, the State Board of Education shall make available to schools resource materials developed in consultation with stakeholders regarding hairstyles, including hairstyles historically associated with race, ethnicity, or hair texture, including, but not limited to, protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists. The State Board of Education shall make the resource materials available on its Internet website.​

 Resources

  • CROWN Act
    • The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act was first introduced in California and signed into law on July 3, 2019. The California law expanded the definition of race in the Fair Employment and Housing Act and state Education Code to prohibit race-based hair discrimination in the workplace and K-12 public and charter schools. The CROWN Act has gained support from federal and state legislators to prohibit the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles, including braids, locs, twists, and bantu knots. (Source: CROWN Act)
  • Tignon Laws
    • Tignon laws were enacted in Louisiana in the 1700s to require Creole women of color to wear a tignon (scarf or handkerchief) to cover their hair to diminish excessive attention and indicate that they belonged to the slave class — despite the fact that some of these women were free Blacks. (Source: Aisha Al-Muid)​

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