Bill banning hairdressing distortion approved by the Massachusetts Senate

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Advocates say women of color in particular have come under pressure at school and in the workplace to alter their hair to comply with biased policies against natural hairstyles.

Deanna Cook, right, poses for a portrait with her mother Colleen at their home in Malden, MA. Deanna and her twin sister, Mya, now 20, pushed for a bill to ban hair discrimination based on race in Massachusetts after being punished at their Malden high school in 2017 for wearing hairstyles that the school reported violating her dress code. Craig F. Walker / Globe Staff

BOSTON (AP) – A bill aimed at banning discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles in workplaces, school districts and school-related organizations was unanimously approved Thursday by the Massachusetts Senate.

The vote comes two weeks after the Massachusetts House passed a similar bill.

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Advocates say women of color in particular have come under pressure at school and in the workplace to alter their hair to comply with biased policies against natural hairstyles.

The Senate added a provision to the House version of the bill that would include the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association on the list of educational entities banned from adopting and implementing restrictions on natural hairstyles.

Advocates say the change will ensure those who participate in sports and extracurricular activities will not be asked to change their natural or protective hairstyles to participate.

The bill has its roots in the case of a Massachusetts charter school that was targeted in 2017 for a policy of banning hair extensions. After intense criticism, the school dropped out of politics.

The U.S. House also passed a bill earlier this month that would ban discrimination against blacks who wear hairstyles such as afro, pigtails, or tightly coiled twists in society, school, and the workplace. The federal bill would explicitly say that such discrimination is a violation of federal civil rights law.

President Joe Biden has said he will sign the bill. He now he heads to the United States Senate.

Lawmakers in the Massachusetts House and Senate must now submit a single version of the bill before taking a final vote and sending it to Republican Governor Charlie Baker for his signature.

If signed into law, Massachusetts would become the fifteenth state to adopt the measure, known as the CROWN Act.

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