Chicago mother wins fight to ban hair discrimination in Illinois schools

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Chicago mother turned her outrage to action after her son, Jett Hawkins, faced discrimination at his preschool for wearing his hair in braids earlier this year.

"It was a violation of the school dress code and I was appalled by that because he is 4-years-old," said Ida Nelson, the boy's mother.

It led to the Jett Hawkins Law banning discrimination in schools

for hairstyles historically associated with race, ethnicity, or hair texture braids, locks and twists.

"I feel grateful for the hair bill," Hawkins said.

Illinois State Senator Mike Simmons introduced the legislation in Springfield that Governor Pritkzer signed this afternoon at Uplift Community High School in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood.

"For decades Black people have had too often their natural and protective hairstyles weaponized against them," Pritkzer said.

Simmons said schools should be for learning and discovery.

"They should not be places where young kids are traumatized or discriminated against on a regular basis," he said.

The law also requires the Illinois State Board of Education to provide schools with educational materials to teach about protective hairstyles.

"This is yet another way that Illinois is making powerful strides in transforming the culture of our schools," Pritzker said.

Nelson and her son attended the bill signing.

"I am excited for the children of Illinois to be able to go to school without having to be concerned about their hair," Nelson said.

The law goes into effect January 1.

Nelson said she's now partnering with parents across the country to get similar legislation passed in other states.

"What I learned from this is that we are our children's biggest advocates and it is up to us to take a stand," she said.

State lawmakers are working on legislation to ban hair discrimination in the workplace. It's called the Crown Act.
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