This Mom Got Illinois To Sign A Law Banning Hair Discrimination In Schools


August 24, 2021

She helped change the school system!

Ida Nelson worked to get a new law banning hair discrimination in Illinois. It was signed by Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker, prohibiting school dress codes from issuing policies that historically targeted Black students wearing protective and natural hairstyles. 


The measure, known as the Jett Hawkins Law, is named after her son Gus “Jett” Hawkins. At four, he was told that his braids violated his Chicago school’s dress code. His mother had to go to the school, pick him up, and remove them the same day. 

After the incident, Nelson started a call to action, explaining how stigmatizing children’s hair could negatively affect their educational development. Friday’s bill signing was “monumental,” she told NBC



The legislation was sponsored by state Senator Mike Simmons, a Black lawmaker who wears his natural hair in locked hair. He said he knows what it’s like to be humiliated in front of classmates by authority figures.

“Black youth in school settings shouldn’t have to be restricted by outdated and often racist dress codes that only serve to humiliate students of color who want to wear their hair in a style that honors their heritage, ancestry, and culture,” Simmons told NBC.

“For us, this is bigger than just hair. Our hair is an extension of who we are as a race and is deeply connected to our cultural identity,” Nelson said. “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.” 


The new law takes effect on January 1st, 2022. 

Photo courtesy of E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune

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