States and cities are banning hair discrimination. Here’s how that’s affecting schools.
Chalkbeat – January 16, 2020
by Kalyn Belsha
In just the last year, California, New York and New Jersey have passed laws banning discrimination based on hair styles or textures that are commonly associated with a person’s race or nationality. New York City, Cincinnati, and Montgomery County, Maryland have issued their own bans.
That group looks likely to grow. Thirteen additional states and the city of Baltimore are considering similar laws, according to the coalition tracking the effort, while Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey recently introduced a federal bill to outlaw hair discrimination, pointing to the case of the New Jersey high school wrestler.
Meanwhile, the nation’s largest teachers union has also called on educators to push for more inclusive school hair policies in their districts, even if a law hasn’t yet passed in their state.
“Some states, but not enough, have banned hair discrimination — an important step in protecting students against implicit and explicit bias,” the National Education Association wrote on its Twitter account this fall.
Black students being disciplined for how they wear their hair have fueled debates for years about the amount of control schools should be able to exert over their students — particularly students of color.
Some schools have argued that dress codes are a critical component of school culture, and certain hairstyles or headwraps are distracting, unprofessional, or promote gangs or prison culture. Increasingly, students have pushed back, arguing that such definitions of professionalism are rooted in racism.
Aundrey Page grappled with this issue when he became the principal of KIPP SF College Preparatory high school in San Francisco last summer.
Before Page started his new job, he interviewed students, asking what they liked about their school and what they wanted to see changed. Several black female students told him they wanted to be able to wear headwraps and headscarves in class, so Page made that change as part of a larger effort to relax the school’s dress code. Read full story here.