Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker Signs Jett Hawkins Act to Ban Hair Dicrimination at Schools

Gov. J.B. Pritzker gives a pen to Jett Hawkins as he signs the Jett Hawkins Act at Uplift Community High School in the Uptown neighborhood on Friday. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday signed into a law a bill that bars hair discrimination in schools, saying it will help ensure that students statewide feel “comfortable and confident in their own skin.”

But the mother whose son was an inspiration for the law — a 4-year-old Black child who was told his braids were a violation of school dress codes — said the moment “is bigger than just hair.”

“Our hair is an extension of who we are as a race and is deeply connected with our cultural identity,” said Ida Nelson, who had a front row seat at the bill signing, holding son Gus “Jett” Hawkins in her lap.

“This is one huge step towards improving the mental health outcomes for our children, as it ensures that they will be in healthier learning environments,” she said.

The governor signed the bill at Uplift Community High School, saying the new law will allow students to “embrace the power of their heritage rather than compromise their identities.”

“For so many people, how you dress and how you look is an expression of who you are,” Pritzker said. “For others, the choice is as simple as deciding what makes them the most comfortable and confident in their own skin.

“That should be the beginning and the end of the conversation. … Nobody should be made to feel less than for how they express themselves, let alone miss out on school days, dances and after-school sports are how they style their hair.”

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SOURCE: Chicago Sun-Times, Rachel Hinton

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