Bill Banning Hairstyle Discrimination in Mass. Signed into Law – NBC Boston
Governor Charlie Baker on Tuesday signed the CROWN Act, a bill that bans prejudice based on hairstyle in the state of Massachusetts.
The the law expressly prohibits discrimination based on “natural and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, twists, bantu knots and other formations”.
The CROWN Act’s name stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” and it’s rooted in the case of a Massachusetts charter school that came under scrutiny in 2017 for a policy prohibiting hair braid extensions. The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against Mystic Valley Regional Charter School for disciplining and suspending black and biracial students based on this policy.
State lawmakers are due to pass legislation on Thursday that would make it illegal to discriminate based on a person’s natural hairstyle. If the CROWN Act passes, it would make Massachusetts the 15th state to pass the law.
The parents of two 15-year-old students, Deanna and Mya Cook, helped bring the issue to light, and the sisters were at State House on Tuesday for the signing ceremony.
“Many across Massachusetts, especially black women, find themselves in positions similar to Mya and Deanna,” said Rep. Steven Ultrino, a Democrat representing Malden and a sponsor of the bill at the time. “These practices that have led to discrimination claim to support professionalism, but it begs the question: what does wearing your hair in braids have to do with being professional?”
After Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, currently a gubernatorial candidate, intervened, the school scrapped the rule.
For generations, black women and men have faced discrimination because of their hair. Last week, Connecticut became the latest state to sign a law banning bias in workplaces and schools against natural or protective hairstyles like braids, locks and twists. LX host Ashley Holt breaks down the history of hair discrimination in the United States and explains why black hair is never “just hair”.
The bill was passed unanimously by both the House and the Senate.
California became the first state to ban workplace and school discrimination against black people for wearing hairstyles like braids, twists and locks. Since then, more than a dozen states have followed suit, arguing for their own versions of the CROWN Act.