Gov. Baker signs CROWN Act prohibiting hairstyle bias at school, work

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday signed the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act into law, prohibiting discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles in places of work and school-related organizations.

The CROWN Act was passed by the House and Senate back in March. The legislation was partly inspired by twin sisters Mya and Deanna Cook, who were 15 years old when their Malden charter school punished them for wearing their hair in braided extensions, which violated the school’s policy at the time.

Mystic Valley Regional Charter School’s hair policy was removed amid protests and an order from Attorney General Maura Healey. The school said in 2017 its policy was intended to “foster a culture that emphasizes education rather than style, fashion or materialism.”

Before the policy was changed, the sisters received daily detetions and were not allowed to take part in track or attend prom. The sisters said white students who violated the school’s policy by coloring their hair were not punished.

The new law prohibits race-based discrimination involving “natural and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, twists, Bantu knots and other formations.”

Massachusetts is the 15th state to adopt the CROWN Act. Following its passage, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley called for the legislation to be enacted federally.

“I’m grateful to our advocates and State House partners who have been organizing for years to make this a reality,” Pressley said. “The U.S. House of Representatives passed the federal CROWN Act months ago—a bill I am proud to co-lead—and the U.S. Senate should pass this critical legislation without delay.”

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