Connect with us


New Massachusetts law bans discrimination based on hairstyle



In a ceremony in the corner office Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker signs a bill banning school or athletic organization discrimination based on natural hairstyles, alongside Deanna Cook and Mya Cook who were punished by their high school for their hair not fitting in with the dress code. [Colin A. Young/SHNS]

By Colin A. Young

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JULY 26, 2022…..As Gov. Charlie Baker signed a ban on school or athletic event discrimination based on hairstyles, Deanna Cook was taken back to the first time she got detention as a high school sophomore because her braids did not conform to her school’s policy.

“I was thinking about how hard this would be,” she said as her emotions got the better of her. “To be here today and to know that no one will go through that again, it means more than the world. It really does.”

Deanna and her sister Mya were standing behind Baker as he signed a new law (H 4554) that will prohibit schools and school athletic organizations from limiting student participation based on “a hairstyle that is historically associated with race,” and it would also define protective hairstyle to include braids, locks, twists, Bantu knots and hair coverings.

The legislation was spawned, in part, out of a months-long dispute between the Cook family of Malden and the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in 2017. Deanne and Mya Cook went to school with box braids, sponsor Rep. Steven Ultrino has said, which were at the time against the school’s dress code. The two girls received daily detentions and infractions for their hairstyles, but also began pushing for the state to take action.

“This is a classic example, in many respects, of a citizen movement started by a very small number of people in which the right thing to do became clearer and clearer the longer the discussion went on,” Baker said just before putting pen to paper. “I am very glad that this made its way to our desk by the end of the session. I normally, as everybody knows, don’t comment on legislation that’s pending because it has the nasty tendency to change as it works its way through the process, but I said months ago that I hoped this would make it to my desk and I would be able to sign it and I’m very glad this is our first post-pandemic signing ceremony.”

Massachusetts is the 18th state in the nation to pass a version of what’s known as the CROWN Act, Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair.

“Today is a day to celebrate our crowns,” Mya Cook said Tuesday.

Rep. Brandy Fluker Oakley of Mattapan made her inaugural speech on the House floor on the CROWN Act and said at Tuesday’s ceremony that she always wore her hair in a natural style when she worked as a public school teacher.

“I always thought it was important for my students to see me in my natural hair so they too could be comfortable in their natural hair,” she said. But then when she became a public defender after law school, “my natural hair was not going to fly.”

“So, I did painstaking hours to straighten it because we know in court, public perception matters when you’re trying to represent somebody and protect their rights and their livelihood,” Fluker Oakley said. “So, what you signed today isn’t just a piece of paper, it’s not just symbolic. It’s truly a gamechanger for Black women and people with natural hair all throughout or commonwealth, so thank you.”

When the Senate unanimously approved an earlier version of the bill in March, Sen. Lydia Edwards said it “is finally a statement that Black women have needed to hear for so long.” The House and Senate each unanimously approved similar bills in March and sent Baker a compromise version earlier this month.

Edwards said Tuesday that she believes she is the first state senator to wear dreadlocks and that she’s proud to wear a hairstyle that was created by a Black woman so that Black women would not have to use chemicals in their hair.

“We’ve created small business around that. A whole economy exists around our hair. A whole oppressive economy also exists around our hair, whether we’re buying fake hair, whether we’re putting chemicals in it,” she said. “So, this is changing not only the civil rights and understanding of self-love game, but it’s also going to change the economy game and how we are more validated for our natural hair, we can invest, pay for and get more natural hairstyles done.”



  1. Rc

    July 26, 2022 at 11:38 pm

    It’s no wonder everything is a mess, this country, this state. It’s not like everyday taxpayers have other concerns or anything so let’s focus on hairstyle discrimination. SMH !

    • Ken Masson

      July 27, 2022 at 7:23 am

      How racist of you! Maybe we should ban skinheads white supremacist like you! So because we pass this law we can’t get anything else done because we can’t multitask? Is that what you’re saying? Or are you upset that this law mainly protects African Americans? Either way I understand why you didn’t use your name because people might not understand your hatred.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Copyright © 2017 Fall River Reporter

Translate »