Ohio lawmakers push for the CROWN Act, HB 178, to ban hair discrimination

This is the 3rd time in 3 years lawmakers have tried to move this legislation forward in Ohio
Published: Jun. 13, 2023 at 6:54 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -For the third time in three years, Ohio lawmakers are considering legislation that would ban hair discrimination in public schools and workplaces.

On June 6, State Representative Juanita Brent faced her fellow lawmakers at the Ohio House Civil Justice Committee meeting and officially introduced legislation that she’s been pushing for since 2020, the CROWN Act, an acronym for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.

“This is my 3rd time introducing the Crown Act, my 3rd time, I’m very persistent, very determined to do this and very grateful to do this. I want to acknowledge this publicly,” she said. ”House Bill 178 is a bill that deals with hair discrimination and if you look at my hair right now, who would’ve thought that if somebody wanted to get rid of me, I would not be able to take legal cause because somebody at a school or at even at a workplace would not want me to have braids in my hair,” said Brent.

This time, Representative Brent has bipartisan support from co-sponsor, Representative Jamie Callender, who shared his own personal stories at the meeting but acknowledged others.

“I don’t like any discrimination that takes away your right of free speech but this bill is much deeper than that. It also deals with actual discrimination. There are some folks through birth, through ancestry whose hair is different than others,” he said.

Since inception in 2019, The CROWN Act combats hair discrimination by ensuring that hairstyles historically associated with race, such as afros, braids, locs and natural hair are protected in public schools and workplaces.

The CROWN Act is law in 22 states but is not yet federal law.

Tuesday at the Statehouse, the Civil Justice Committee heard testimony from leaders around the state who support this legislation and want to pass it here in Ohio.

“More than 30 cities here in Ohio have adopted protections against these discriminatory practices including Akron, Cincinatti, Columbus and Cleveland Heights. As recent as yesterday, even the state of Texas has adopted its own Crown Act,” said Tracey Maxwell Heard, Executive Director of Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence, Inc.

“No one should have to worry about future success or fear of losing their job, being sent home from school or dehumanized because of how they wear their hair. Everyone deserves to live their authentic selves without fear of retaliation,” said Linda Kanney, President, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., Central Ohio Chapter.

19 News has covered Black Hair culture extensively as part of The Next 400, a series created to encourage conversations and action about racism in our community.

The Next 400: Digging into the tangled roots of Black hair culture

If you have a story you’d like for us to cover, send us an email to The Next 400 at W-O-I-O-dot-com.