Illinois became the newest state to act against hairstyle discrimination under a new law signed by Gov. J.B Pritzker. The Senate Bill 817, also known as the Jet Hawkins Law, prohibits schools from issuing policies on hairstyles associated with race or ethnicity. It directly responds to the continuous injustices in dress code policies and protects targeted Black youth in Illinois who often are punished for their presentation. 

The Jet Hawkins Law is named after a 4-year-old Chicago boy, Gus ‘Jett’ Hawkins, who faced discrimination as he was told his braids violated the dress code. Hawkins’ mother, Ida Nelson, raised awareness of the incident and its negative impact of stigmatizing children’s hair. 

“For us, this is bigger than just hair. Our hair is an extension of who we are as a race and is deeply connected to our cultural identity,” said Ida Nelson, mother of Jett Hawkins. “This is one huge step towards improving the mental health outcomes for our children, as it ensures that they will be in healthier learning environments. But the work must continue to proactively create safe spaces in schools where children of color are accepted completely.”

Wells spoke about the importance of having Black culture and hair celebrated versus tolerated. Illinois Gov. J.B Pritzker believes the new law is an addition to the progress already made to allow students of color to embrace their heritage.

“Today, we are adding to the progress we’ve already made by allowing students of color to embrace the power of their heritage rather than compromise their identity. This is yet another way Illinois is making powerful strides in transforming the culture of our schools,” Pritzker said in a press release.

Columbia College Chicago is one of the many schools in Illinois that highlights their anti-discrimination and harassment policy in their student handbook. According to the policy, Columbia will not tolerate harassment or discrimination based on religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, ethnicity, and more. Columbia encourages students, faculty, and staff of all backgrounds to express themselves.


Blavity U Ambassador Lashaunta Moore is a Graduate student at Columbia College Chicago, studying entrepreneurship for creatives. With a bachelor’s degree in media communication, she’s also a freelance journalist and digital content producer who enjoys writing about all forms of news.