Massachusetts Passes Law Banning Hairstyle Discrimination on Natural and Protective Hairstyles Such as Afros, Cornrows, or Tightly Coiled Twists at School or Work

FILE – Deanna Cook, left, poses for a photograph with her mother Colleen at their home in Malden, Mass., on March 15, 2022. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law Tuesday, July 26, 2022, a bill banning discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles in workplaces, school districts, and school-related organizations. The issue came to light when the parents of then-15-year-old Black girls, Deanna and Mya Cook, said their twin daughters were punished for wearing extensions, while white students hadn’t been punished for violations of hairstyle regulations, including coloring their hair. (Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via AP, File)

Legislation to ban discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles — such as Afros, cornrows or tightly coiled twists — in workplaces, school districts and school-related organizations in Massachusetts was signed into law Tuesday by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.


Black women in particular have faced pressure in school and on the job to alter their hair to conform to policies that are biased against natural hairstyles, according to supporters of the law.

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The bill had been unanimously approved by the Democrat-controlled Massachusetts House and Senate. The new law defines natural and protective hairstyles as including “braids, locks, twists, Bantu knots and other formations,” and tasks the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination with enforcing the protections.

Policies that limit or prohibit natural hairstyles in all school districts are now banned. The law also prohibits hair discrimination in employment, business, advertising and public spaces.


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