Posted on July 28, 2022

New Mass. Law Bans Hairstyle Discrimination at School, Work

Associated Press, July 26, 2022

Legislation to ban discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles — such as Afros, cornrows or tightly coiled twists — in workplaces, school districts and school-related organizations in Massachusetts was signed into law Tuesday by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.

Black women in particular have faced pressure in school and on the job to alter their hair to conform to policies that are biased against natural hairstyles, according to supporters of the law.

The bill had been unanimously approved by the Democrat-controlled Massachusetts House and Senate. The new law defines natural and protective hairstyles as including “braids, locks, twists, Bantu knots and other formations,” and tasks the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination with enforcing the protections.

Policies that limit or prohibit natural hairstyles in all school districts are now banned. The law also prohibits hair discrimination in employment, business, advertising and public spaces.

Massachusetts is the 18th state to adopt a version of the the bill — known as the Crown Act — into law, legislators said.

The law has its roots in the case of a Massachusetts charter school that came under fire in 2017 for a policy of banning hair braid extensions.

The issue came to light when the parents of then-15-year-old Black girls said their twin daughters — Deanna and Mya Cook — were punished for wearing extensions, while white students hadn’t been punished for violations of hairstyle regulations.