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CHICAGO — Gov. Pritzker signed legislation Friday that prevents hair discrimination in Illinois schools.

Lawmakers said the bill, SB 817, addresses injustices in dress code polices and protects Black youth facing hair bias in schools.

“Nobody should be made to feel ‘less than’ for how they express themselves – so in Illinois, we’re making it so school uniform and dress code policies in Illinois cannot prohibit or restrict hairstyles historically associated with race, ethnicity or hair texture,” said Gov. Pritzker.

The bill prohibits school uniform and dress code policies from restricting hairstyles that have been historically associated with race, ethnicity or hair texture. This may include, but is not limited to, braids, locks and twists. 

The bill is also known as the Jett Hawkins Law, a 4-year-old Chicago boy who was told his braids were in violation of his school’s dress code. Mother Ida Nelson began raising awareness on the impacts of stigmatizing children’s hair.

“This is so monumental. I would like to express gratitude for the senator and governor in helping me do the work to move our country from intolerant and repressive systems that directly impacted people of color and have prevented us from being accepted in our true, natural states,” Nelson said.

At the press conference, State Senator Mike Simmons said the General Assembly is currently working on a bill that would extend the protection to the workplace.

The bill goes into effect Jan. 1, 2022.