CHICAGO – State Senator Mike Simmons (D-Chicago) officially banned schools from discriminating against hairstyles historically associated with race or ethnicity with the signing of the Jett Hawkins Act at a ceremony Friday at Uplift Community High School.

“No child should ever have to experience being singled out by their school for sporting a hairstyle that remains true to their heritage, culture or ancestry,” Simmons said. “These policies have no purpose and only serve to disproportionately impact and humiliate students of color who choose to wear their hair in a style that is traditionally non-white.”

Senate Bill 817 prevents school boards, local school councils, charter schools and nonprivate schools from creating hairstyle-based dress code requirements. Simmons, who wears his hair in freeform locs, championed the legislation in support of Jett Hawkins, a 4-year old boy who was sent home from school earlier this year for having braids that violated his school’s dress code.

“Kids like Jett deserve to express themselves however they see fit and shouldn’t have to be restricted by outdated and often racist dress codes,” Simmons said. “Learning at a young age that you have agency and control over your own life can be extremely empowering for Black children. I’m thankful to and proud of Jett and his mother Ida Nelson for taking a stand on the issue and for becoming activists for Black people to be able to wear their hair naturally and as they see fit in all spaces, and I’m thankful to Gov. Pritzker for signing this act into law.”

The Jett Hawkins Act takes effect Jan. 1, 2022.

Category: Press Releases

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