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Illinois may ban "hair bias" in Illinois schools

A bill would protect ethnic hairstyles in almost every school in the state

MOLINE, Ill. — Illinois lawmakers are looking to protect ethnic hairstyles in both the workplace an in schools.

State Sen. Mike Simmons, who is Black and wears his hair in free form dreadlocks, says he remembers what it felt like to be embarrassed in front of classmates because of his hair. 

The proposal says schools “will not prohibit hairstyles historically associated with race, ethnicity, or hair texture, including, but not limited to, protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.” 

Sen. Simmons said he's naming his bill after Ida Nelson's four year old son Jett who was told to have his braids cut off because they did not conform to the private school's rules.

"These policies skew their perception of self and create a feeling of something about them needing to be fixed and that is not a good message to send to young, impressionable children," Nelson told a House Committee during a virtual hearing on the bill.

"As a mom, it is my duty to protect my children from all known harm."

Student Lauren Leggett also said that the issue of hair discrimination is just part of what minorities face n classrooms every day.

"It's bigger than a hair policy," she said."

"If anything, it is the constant acts that let us know it is not safe to be ourselves in an educational environment."

The Senate has approved the plan, which has yet to clear the House.