SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The proposal to prohibit hair discrimination in Illinois public and private schools passed out of a House Education Policy Committee Tuesday.
Sponsor Greg Harris (D-Chicago) recently filed an amendment to the bill to rename the proposal to honor Jett Hawkins. The 4-year-old boy from Chicago was excited to put his hair in braids. However, his elementary school said it violated the school dress code.
This proposal says schools cannot prohibit hairstyles traditionally associated with race, ethnicity, or hair texture. Jett’s mother, Ida Nelson, said the current policy makes students feel “something about them must be fixed.”
“That is not a good message to send to young impressionable children,” Nelson said. “It’s up to all of us adults to protect children, regardless of their phenotype, from any threat to their mental or emotional wellbeing.”
Jett Hawkins Act
Other advocates said this is much more than a hair policy. Lauren Leggett, a student at Providence St. Mel, told committee members hair discrimination impacts the mental health of countless Black children.
“It is the constant acts that we are not safe to be ourselves in an educational environment that let us know we are a detriment to society in some way. That is the biggest distraction to our education,” Leggett explained. “By supporting this bill, you are eliminating a lot of barriers Black children have to face before they even enter into the workforce and supporting them on that journey.”
The proposal passed out of committee on a 15-3 vote. It now heads to the House floor for further debate. The legislation passed out of the Senate earlier this month on a 40-13 vote.
Sen. Mike Simmons (D-Chicago) led the fight for this proposal in the Senate. The freshman lawmaker proudly wears his hair in free-form dreadlocks.
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May 25, 2021 at 02:38PM