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Illinois bill to stop discrimination on hairstyles passes state senate

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A bill that would bar schools from having polices that discriminate against natural hairstyles passed the Illinois State Senate on Wednesday.

The bill was introduced by State Sen. Mike Simmons (D-Chicago), the state’s first out LGBTQ state senator.

“We took a major step forward [Wednesday] in passing this bill out of the Senate and sent a message to our young people that we see them and respect them for who they are. Black youth in particular have endured decades of systemic discrimination targeting their hairstyles in schools, and it’s time to turn the page on that history. I thank my colleagues for supporting the bill,” Simmons said in a press release. 

Senate Bill 817 applies to all public, private and charter schools in the State. The bill prohibits schools from issuing policies or including any language in handbooks about hairstyles traditionally associated with race and ethnicity including braids, dreadlocks, and protective hairstyles. 

Simmons, who is Black and whose hair is in locs, said he’s been on the receiving end of school rules policing his personal appearance. 

“I understand what this feels like personally,” Simmons said. “I urge the House to approve this legislation and join the Senate in ensuring that the next generation doesn’t have to go through this.”

California and New York were the first states to pass laws that ban discrimination of hairstyles in 2019. There have been incidents even in the past month where Black and multi-racial students have been told or had their hair cut over hairstyles, most recently in Michigan and North Carolina.

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