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Ohio House committee passes bill to protect some people with natural hairstyles

Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland) talks about her bill to protect people wearing hair in natural styles after it passed an Ohio House committee on June 4, 2024
Jo Ingles
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland) talks about her bill to protect people wearing hair in natural styles after it passed an Ohio House committee on June 4, 2024

An Ohio House committee has passed a bill that says public schools must allow students to wear their natural hair.

It's an issue that's attracted attention in recent years as students and employees in some schools have been told they must cut, straighten or relax their hair.

Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland) has been fighting for her bill through two previous general assemblies. She said hair discrimination is real.

“Nobody should have to worry about their locks, their puffs. They should not feel like they want to be themselves in their natural state of their hair," Brent said.

Tracy Maxwell Heard is the executive director of Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence, and is the former House minority leader. She said choices about how to wear hair have spilled over into workplaces.                                     

“This creates obstacles for women in terms of interview, considerations about approaching employers for employment," Maxwell Heard said. "Many women change their hair for an interview and then they have trepidations about can I really go back to wearing my hair the way I want to should they secure the employment. It impacts promotions into leadership and C suite positions."

The bill only applies to public employees and public schools. But Brent said the bill is just the beginning.

Democratic lawmakers have led the charge to pass legislation to pass a bill to prevent what they call discrimination based on hairstyles. This time the bill got bipartisan support with three Republicans signed on, including Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord) as a joint sponsor.

The bill passed out of the House Civil Committee with a 9-3 vote. All Democrats on that panel and about half of the Republicans voted for the bill. A full House vote on the bill hasn't been scheduled, but the chamber meets for a voting session next week.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.