Friedman, Senate Pass CROWN Act

Bill prohibits discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles

(BOSTON – 04/01/2022) The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday, March 31, passed the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act, which prohibits discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles in workplaces, school districts, and any school-related organizations. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), voted in favor of the legislation, which passed the Senate unanimously.

“A person’s natural hair is an extension of themself, and it is due time that we take action to prevent race-based hair discrimination in the Commonwealth,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I thank my colleagues who so passionately advocated on this issue and for their work on the CROWN Act, and I look forward to seeing this bill become law soon.”

“As a racial equity champion who developed the legislative and social impact strategy for the national CROWN Act movement on behalf of the CROWN Coalition, I applaud today’s Senate vote”, said Adjoa B. Asamoah, CROWN Coalition Co-Creator. “Tackling injustice and protecting people’s civil rights require moral leadership. I thank Representative Steve Ultrino who championed the bill in the House with cosponsor Representative Chynah Tyler, in addition to Senators Adam Gomez and Sal DiDomenico for their leadership and partnership to outlaw race-based hair discrimination in Massachusetts.”

The CROWN Act would prohibit discrimination based on hairstyles by incorporating hair texture, hair type and protective hairstyle into the definition of race in the Massachusetts General Laws. The protection means that no school district, school committee, public school, nonsectarian school, or any equivalent school organizations, can adopt or implement policies that would impair or prohibit a natural or protective hairstyle that has been historically associated with one’s race.

If signed into law, Massachusetts would become the fifteenth state to adopt the CROWN Act. The legislation was inspired in part by sisters Mya and Deanna Cook, who as teens gained national attention after successfully overturning their school policy which had barred them from taking part in school activities.

The Senate also added a provision that would include the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association to the list of school entities banned from adopting and implementing restrictions on natural hairstyles. This change will ensure that those participating in sports and extracurricular activities will not be asked to change their natural or protective hairstyles in order to participate.

The legislation authorizes the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination oversight to create and adopt rules, regulations, policies, and recommendations that may be necessary to implement this legislation.

During Thursday’s session, the Senate also passed an extension of its emergency rules adopted during COVID-19 which allowed for such transparency and accessibility measures like remote voting procedures for Senators through August 1, 2022. The Senate also passed An Act Relative to Temporary Registration Plates, which requires the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to design, issue and regulate the use of temporary registration plates for out-of-state drivers looking to transport a vehicle to their state of residence.

A version of An Act Prohibiting Discrimination Based on Natural and Protective Hairstyles having passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives, both branches will now work together on compromise legislation before advancing a final version to the Governor. ###