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Move against hair discrimination continues

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(The Center Square) – For the third time, a push to stop discrimination because of a person’s hair sits in the Ohio General Assembly.

Sens. Paula Hicks-Hudson, D-Toledo, and Catherine Ingram, D-Cincinnati, introduced the Crown Act, which would prohibit discrimination against a person because of traits associated with an individual’s race, including hair texture and protective and cultural hairstyles in employment, public places, housing and credit practices.

“As an amazing songstress once said, ‘I am not my hair,’” Ingram said. “Which says that none of us should be judged or discriminated against simply because of a cultural choice as to how one wears their hair. This bill should be unnecessary. Unfortunately, because of the negative actions of some employers, educational institutions, and other organizations, we reintroduce this bill today.”

The bill would cover things like braids, locks and twists. It would allow someone to sue if they feel discriminated against because of their hair. Hicks-Hudson introduced the same legislation in the last two General Assemblies. They failed to pass.

“People should not be judged by the natural, physical characteristics of something so personal as one’s hair. Unfortunately, young people are being suspended from their schools or forced to cut or change their hairstyles, employees are discriminated against because of a hairstyle,” Hicks-Hudson said. “It has nothing to do with a student’s ability to achieve academically, or an employee’s to perform their job. Instead, the message is being sent to people of color that their natural hair and cultural expression is wrong.”

As previously reported by The Center Square, a companion bill was introduced in the House in June with the backing of 14 bipartisan lawmakers.

Ohio’s proposed legislation comes after two states took up the same issue in the last year.

First, as previously reported by The Center Square, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law in October a bill that prohibits Illinois schools from issuing policies on hairstyles associated with race or ethnicity.

That bill responded to a 4-year-old boy in Chicago, Gus “Jett” Hawkins, who was told his braids violated his school’s dress code.

In March, also reported by The Center Square, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signed an executive order banning hair discrimination within state agencies.

That order was also part of the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, or CROWN, Act, a nationwide campaign. The organization’s goal is to have legislation, not just executive orders, in all 50 states, and it’s been successful in 23, according to its website.

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