Story at a glance

  • Public and private schools in Illinois are no longer allowed to ban braids, locs, twists, or other hairstyles associated with race or ethnicity.
  • Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed the law, known as “Jett Hawkins Law” in August. It took effect Jan. 1.
  • The Chicago preschool which made Hawkins remove his braids said in May it had erased it's hairstyle policy from its student handbook.

Illinois schools are no longer able to ban hairstyles associated with race or ethnicity, according to a new law which took effect over the weekend.

The law, signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) in August, bars both public and private schools from prohibiting students from wearing hairstyles like braids, locs, or twists, among other culturally significant hairstyles.

The measure, which went into effect Jan. 1, was inspired by 4-year-old Gus “Jett” Hawkins, a Black private school student who last year was forced to take out his braids by school officials.

“For us, it is bigger than just hair,” Hawkins’ mother, Ida Nelson, said in remarks made just before Pritzker signed the measure into law during a ceremony in August. “Our hair is an extension of who we are as a race and is deeply connected with our cultural identity. This is one huge step toward improving the mental health outcomes for our children as it ensures that they will be in healthier learning environments.”


America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.


The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Mike Simmons (D), who wears his hair in freeform locs.

“I know from my own childhood what it’s like to be regularly belittled, humiliated, isolated and shamed by adults in the school setting, and it’s something that we can no longer accept in Illinois,” Simmons said during the ceremony.

“Black youth have been targeted and mistreated for far too long for expressing and honoring their heritage and their culture. We cannot be holding our youth to spoken, and unspoken standards, about how you’re supposed to sound, act, and, in this case, look,” he said.

Providence St. Mel, the Chicago preschool that made Hawkins take out his braids, removed the hairstyle policy from its student handbook over the summer.

“The original intent was part of the uniform decorum and protecting our students,” the school’s principal, Tim Ervin, who is Black, told the Chicago Tribune in May. “The purpose was not to stifle anyone or to be discriminatory.”


READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA

SOUTH AFRICAN SCIENTIST THINKS SHE MAY HAVE SOLVED THE MYSTERY OF LONG COVID-19

EXPERTS SAY THE NEXT COVID-19 VARIANT IS ‘JUST AROUND THE CORNER’

BETTY WHITE CAUSE OF DEATH CONFIRMED BY HER AGENT

AS OMICRON SURGES HERE’S WHAT THE LATEST SCIENCE SAYS ABOUT THE VARIANT

WILDLY RARE VIDEO SHOWS YELLOWSTONE BEAR JOIN IN WOLF HUNT — AND STEAL FOOD IN ‘KLEPTOPARASITIC’ DRAMA

Published on Jan 07, 2022