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CROWN Act signed into law in Arkansas, protecting students from hair discrimination

The CROWN Act is a bill that specifically bans hair discrimination in public schools and two-year and four-year universities in Arkansas.

ARKANSAS, USA — CROWN is an acronym that means a Creating Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. The bill specifically bans hair discrimination in public schools and two-year and four-year universities in Arkansas.

House Bill 1871, also known as the CROWN Act, was created for students' protection to have the freedom to wear their hair that matches their identity.

"Her idea behind it was just so kids or students feel comfortable wearing their hair however they choose to that's not offensive, but it's a true expression of who they are," said Jay Richardson- State Representative (D) of Fort Smith.

Richardson says this bill does not apply to private schools but he adds it's important for students in college to be protected as well.

"A couple of years back at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith where there was some issue with a student -- a basketball player and his hair, and I think that's where Representative Scott had kind of pulled from that and checked around the state and saw there were some similar behaviors around," Richardson recalled.

An African-American studies professor at the University of Arkansas says Black hair discrimination has been the target of discrimination and oppression but this bill protects all races from hair discrimination.

"And the ideal beauty standard is set for all of us, no one is immune from it... many of us you know hold those stigmas as well," said Dr. Angela Mensah, a  teaching assistant professor of African and African American studies.

Over the years, students nationwide faced repercussions for their hair-- whether it was the style, the length, or simply because it was deemed as "distracting" in schools.

"It's needed in more than just schools but in the workplace as well, because the workplace is where, you know, where we have to survive. We have to work in order to live and then we have to fit in there too and be professional. Being professional means that my hair has to be straightened, has to be long, has to be pressed out and that's discrimination in itself and I don't think people see it as that way," Dr. Mensah explained.

Bill sponsors say in the next legislative session in 2025, they will work to add protection against hair discrimination in the workplace to the bill. On April 10, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed the bill into law.

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