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Chicago state senator seeks to end school dress code restrictions on hair

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A Chicago state senator wants to withhold funding from schools that enforce dress codes on hairstyles. School associations and the Illinois State Board of Education are concerned that the bill’s sanction mechanism has gone too far.

On the Senate Education Committee, Senator Mike Simmons, D-Chicago, said policies banning certain hairstyles in schools were outdated. He said he thinks schools will want to be on the right side of history ifamendment to SB817 becomes law.

“I think it will be a lot better for the state, it will be a lot better for our kids,” Simmons said.

Aisha Davis is the Vice President of Affinity Community Services of Chicago, a social justice organization focused on black LGBTQ communities. Davis says she wants black, Latin and native students to be able to present themselves to school as genuine themselves.

“Many regulations and rules that exist in schools prohibit hairstyles that have nothing to do with hygiene or health, but restrict students to wearing their hair in styles that are traditionally associated with communities of color. , and are deemed less acceptable or professional because they do not adhere to Eurocentric standards of beauty or care, ”said Davis. “The restrictions on hairstyles do nothing more than create a situation where students are forced to question the ‘acceptability’ and ‘professionalism’ of their appearance.”

Xavier Ramey, CEO of Chicago-based consultancy Justice Informed, said the bill was an important step towards fairness and self-reliance. He said the bill had to do with the implicit and unconscious biases people hold about what the hair say on a person.

“Young blacks and brunettes are instilled at an early age that they should fear how they represent themselves in relation to their hair, that they should respect the fears of others who may see their hair as something that can. distract or diminish their ability to truly earn the fruit of their brilliance in the workforce or not, ”said Ramey.

Under the bill, non-compliant districts would have their names listed on the state council’s website, in addition to keeping their public funding at the level of the previous school year. Districts would receive the additional funding once they comply with the bill.

Amanda Elliott, director of legislative affairs for the National Board of Education, said there are a variety of already existing enforcement mechanisms that can be used when schools are not complying with legislation, including a process of revocation of the recognition of a district. Elliott said that in nearly a decade with the board, she hasn’t seen a district have its recognition, and therefore funding, taken away.

“We’ve threatened him a number of times, which translates into pretty quick compliance,” Elliott said. “Districts generally don’t want this to happen and are complying with the mandate.”

Elliott said the council also had a department in place to help students across the state deal with issues with their schools and districts.

Other senators have also expressed concern about the potential effect of the bill.

“If you want to withdraw or potentially withdraw funds from schools, the schools that depend the most on public funds are the schools that are your low-income schools, these are the schools that really need those revenues,” said the senator. Sue. Rezin, R-Morris.

Simmons said those mechanisms wouldn’t go far enough for his bill.

“I frankly believe that to truly eliminate systemic racism, we need a systemic response,” Simmons said. “What I’ve seen is basically a scenario where black parents are going to have the onus on them to file a complaint, and I know from real life experience that it doesn’t work.”

Simmons said the bill needs some bite to get schools to take it seriously.

“As someone who has been targeted and discriminated against by schools myself and has been resilient in this area, I don’t want the next generation to have to go through this,” Simmons said. “I don’t think it’s an education issue, I think it’s a very simple policy issue.”

Simmons said he would continue to work with staff and stakeholders on the legislation. He hopes to get the bill back to committee before the end of the session at the end of the month.

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