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New IL law prevents hair discrimination in schools

The Jett Hawkins Law, named after a four-year-old boy from Chicago, prevents schools from creating hairstyle-based dress code requirements.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — Illinois school districts can no longer create hairstyle-based dress code requirements.

Named after a four year old boy in Chicago, the Jett Hawkins Law went into effect at the start of the year. 

Hawkins was flagged for a dress code violation after arriving to school with braids. Now, the law prohibits discriminating against protective hairstyles such as braids, locks and twists commonly worn by people of color.

"The hairstyles that get targeted would be locks -- more so for men -- and braids for women," cosmetologist and hair stylist at Jean's Platinum Stylez Beauty Shetigre Troupe said. 

Throughout her 10 years of being a cosmetologist, Troupe has witnessed the social acceptance of ethnic hairstyles evolve. She recalled the pressure in her youth to comply to white beauty standards and being bullied for wearing natural Black hair.

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"Now, the kids are able to go to school and wear ponytails and braids and (don't) get picked on as much as when I was coming up," said Troupe. 

Under Jett Hawkins Law, "discriminating against hairstyles historically associated with race, ethnicity, or hair texture" is prohibited.

School districts that violate the law can risk losing recognition status from the Illinois State Board of Education.

"How myself or any other person chooses to wear their hair doesn't define their success, status or their academic level at all," said Troupe. "The confidence that we as stylists give our clients help them express who they are within themselves."

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