Legislation banning hair discrimination in schools passes out of Illinois House

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The proposal to ban discrimination of hairstyles in Illinois schools passed out of the House Thursday.

Sen. Mike Simmons (D-Chicago) championed the bill this year as a Black man who proudly sports his hair in free-form dreadlocks. His legislation honors Jett Hawkins, a four-year-old boy who faced the dilemma with his elementary school when they said his braids violated the school dress code.

This proposal says public and private schools cannot prohibit hairstyles traditionally associated with race, ethnicity, or hair texture.

Some House Democrats also said it’s sad lawmakers had to create a law to address how children can express themselves.

“It gives you confidence, doesn’t it? It gives you strength, it gives you power,” said Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago). “And to force someone that believes in what gives them power to cut it off is bad.”

The proposal passed on an 89-22-1 vote. Some lawmakers raised concerns over the bill requiring private schools to make this change as well.

It now heads back to the Senate for quick approval of an amendment before it goes to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk.

“I’ve gotten the chance to run a lot of bills here in the time I’ve been down here in Springfield. I’ll tell you my Senator asking me to pick this one up, that was a big honor for me,” said Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago). “This is a chance for us to correct some historical wrongs that have been done. They’ve been done for years and years and years. It’s time now that we say it may have been what our history always said we should do, but it’s not what our future wants us to do.”

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