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Illinois bill aims to end 'hairstyle discrimination' in schools

State Sen. Mike Simmons, who introduced the proposal, said he remembers what it felt like to be embarrassed at school because of his hair.
/ Source: AP (Associated Press)

A Black state lawmaker has proposed legislation that seeks to bar Illinois schools from issuing rules pertaining to hairstyles, saying it’ll address hairstyle discrimination.

State Sen. Mike Simmons, who wears his hair in free form dreadlocks, said he remembers what it felt like to be embarrassed at school because of his hair. The Chicago Democrat said he was also responding to news reports that a 4-year-old Black student was told to take out his braids due his Chicago school’s dress code.

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.”

“I understand what this feels like personally, to be made to be humiliated in front of your classmates. To have authority figures belittle you and humiliate you in front of other people because of something that is God-given is entirely unacceptable,” Simmons told The Chicago Sun-Times. “As somebody who wears his hair natural, I just think it would be irresponsible for me not to speak up and act on this and make a change to the policies that allow this to happen.”

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.”miniseries / Getty Images

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

Some Republicans objected because the bill includes all Illinois schools, including private ones, according to The Chicago Tribune. Simmons, who graduated from private school, said he didn’t see a problem with that.

The legislation is SB817.