Missouri lawmakers discuss CROWN Act that bans discrimination against Black hairstyles

State legislators explored a bill banning bias “on the basis of hair texture and protective hairstyles" in schools.

Missouri lawmakers are holding hearings this week on two bills dubbed the CROWN Act. The bills, which are similar to those passed in other states, will protect against discrimination over Black hairstyles such as braids, locs and cornrows.

On Monday, lawmakers discussed a bill that would ban discrimination “on the basis of hair texture and protective hairstyles” in state-funded schools.

Missouri state Rep. Raychel Proudie (above) proposed the CROWN Act last year, which protects against discrimination over Black hairstyles such as braids, dreadlocks and cornrows. (Photo: Screenshot/KOMU 8)

The bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Raychel Proudie of St. Louis, told KOMU 8 when the Missouri CROWN Act was passed last March that she is “very privileged to be a state representative and wear my natural hair and not to have felt any way about it with you all as my colleagues. Hopefully, this bill will bring that same kind of relief and comfort to students.” 

Passing the CROWN Act is a national effort. According to reports, 13 states have enacted it, and 30 states have pre-filed, filed or made clear they intend to introduce the legislation.

Monday, all nine members of Missouri’s Special House Committee on Urban Issues voted to pass that state’s CROWN Act.

“If we were asking children to cut or alter their hair as a way of being punitive or punishment… if we were to do that in our homes, the state of Missouri would be knocking on our door because that’s considered child abuse,” Proudie said. “If parents are not allowed to do that, we should not be allowing our taxpayer sustained institutions to do the same.”

“We should not be denying kids access to a learning experience because of what society considers professional,” said the lawmaker. “Their opinion of how our hair grows and looks is their problem.”

“The impact of hair discrimination cannot be overstated. Schools and workplaces across the country often have dress codes and grooming policies in place prohibiting natural hairstyles, like afros, braids, Bantu knots and locs,” the NAACP Legal Defense Fund notes on its information page publicizing the efforts of the 80-organization CROWN Coalition.

“These policies that criminalize natural hair have been used to justify the removal of Black children from classrooms and adults from their employment.”

Grooming policies “that criminalize natural hair have been used to justify the removal of Black children from classrooms,” notes the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
(Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

“Hair discrimination is an undue burden that polices Black identity and upholds white supremacy,” says the group. “With no nationwide legal protections against hair discrimination, Black people are often left to risk facing consequences at school or work for their natural hair or invest time and money to conform to Eurocentric professionalism and beauty standards.”

One Illinois lawmaker introduced a similar CROWN Act bill in that state last May. Sen. Mike Simmons, who represents Chicago’s north side, said his bill will apply to all private, public and charter schools in the state, per WSIL-TV.

“No student should be forced to compromise their identity,” Simmons said, “nor should we continue to allow young people to be traumatized like this in 2021.” 

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