Ohio Lawmakers Introduce CROWN Act to End Discriminatory Policing of Hairstyles

Some businesses or schools have policies discouraging ethnic hair types, and even prohibit styles like braids, Bantu knots, cornrows and locs and dreadlocks.

The U.S. House passed the CROWN Act in March to prohibit the denial of employment or educational opportunities because of a person's hair texture or protective hairstyle. - Photo: Eye for Ebony, Unsplash
Photo: Eye for Ebony, Unsplash
The U.S. House passed the CROWN Act in March to prohibit the denial of employment or educational opportunities because of a person's hair texture or protective hairstyle.

Some Ohio lawmakers are following in the footsteps of federal legislators with a bill to ban the policing of hairstyles based on racial stereotypes.

Eboney Thornton, communications coordinator at the Center for Community Solutions, said some businesses or schools have policies discouraging ethnic hair types, and even prohibit styles like braids, Bantu knots, cornrows and locs and dreadlocks.

"People of color, particularly Black women and Hispanic, end up having to do something to their hair that's unnatural for them," Thornton explained. "Or they may wear wigs, they may chemically process their hair to be in compliance of that particular dress code."

The U.S. House passed the CROWN Act in March to prohibit the denial of employment or educational opportunities because of a person's hair texture or protective hairstyle. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who voted against the measure, called it a distraction from more important issues. Shortly after, House Bill 668 was introduced at the state level.

Currently, Civil Rights Act Title VII only offers protections for the hairstyle known as an Afro.

Thornton pointed out often, policies intended to discriminate against certain cultures also penalize others.

"A lot of the dress codes, a lot of rules say you can't color your hair a certain way. You can't wear certain braids; you can't have your hair a certain length," Thornton outlined. "It doesn't just affect Black and brown. It affects white girls; it affects white boys who may be growing their hair out to donate."

A dozen states have passed laws prohibiting discrimination based on hair texture. Thornton argued as the world grows and changes, hair-based discrimination could drive qualified and talented workers away from Ohio, hindering economic progress.

"And that's kind of what Ohio is built on," Thornton contended. "We are creative, we are innovative, and we want to keep building that. So, if we stop penalizing people for how they look or how they're wearing their hair, just imagine how great that we can be."

Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland Heights and Columbus have passed similar CROWN Act laws.