SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) – Legislation in the Illinois Statehouse would make it harder to discriminate against people of color based on their hair style.
SB817 would make it illegal for schools to discriminate against students for hair styles associated with race.
"Natural hair is in, and we should be able to wear our hair anyway that we want,” NAACP President Teresa Haley said.
The bill was debated in an education committee hearing on Tuesday. Chicago area Sen. Mike Simmons introduced the legislation that would prevent school districts from having dress code policies that "apply to hairstyles, including hairstyles historically associated with race, or hair texture, including, but not limited to, protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists"
"What I want to do with this bill is to help parents allow their kids to show up as they are without handbooks and outdated policies from policing hairstyles,” the Senator said.
For some lawmakers, an area of concern with the legislation is the punishment for schools which would withhold a level of funding for the school, but it would not be a permanent withholding.
"We're not taking the money away,” Simmons said. “We're just simply setting it aside, and as soon as you come into compliance which is a handbook that takes out language about hair styles, we give that increase right back to you."
Diamond Jackson, a recent college graduate and a Vice-President of the Illinois Chapter of the NAACP says she supports the legislation.
"I go back and forth between two identities,” Jackson said. “When my hair is straight, I am treated different than when it is natural."
Sen. Simmons said he will work with his colleagues to discuss the punishment for schools over the next couple of days and he hopes to have it pass the education committee next week and be up for a full senate vote after.
Another bill, known as the CROWN Act, would ban discrimination based on hair styles in the workplace. It is waiting to be heard on the Senate floor.