By Bob Katzen

The House 155-0, Senate 40-0, approved and Gov. Baker signed into law a bill that would prohibit any person or entity including educational institutions, workplaces and public spaces from implementing any policy that would explicitly target someone who wears their natural hairstyle. The measure defines natural hairstyle as “hair texture, hair type and protective hairstyles including braids, locks, twists and other formation.”

The bill also expands existing anti-bullying law in schools to include recognition for students who may be more vulnerable to bullying or harassment because of their natural hairstyle. Another provision requires the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination to investigate complaints filed against employers who have discriminated based on natural hairstyle.

“On the long march toward justice, and especially racial justice, the Senate’s unanimous passage of this legislation marks another step forward,” said Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester). “We would not be at this point without the great courage and strength of Mya and Deanna Cook, who as 15-year-old students faced discrimination and abuse from their high school for their hairstyles, and bravely stood up for their rights and those of so many other Black women.”

“This is an historic moment for Massachusetts. I am beyond delighted that the [bill] passed unanimously in the House, and words cannot describe how great it is to see the years of hard work from advocates, staff, legislators and community members bear fruit,” said co-sponsor Rep. Steve Ultrino (D-Malden). The votes in our chamber sent a clear message: race-based discrimination has no place in our commonwealth. On this day, we ensured that a person’s racial and cultural identity will no longer be an obstacle to their education, professional career and path to success.”

There was a light moment during floor debate on the bill. “As you may have guessed, I have never experienced hair discrimination,” said Rep. Ultrino, who is bald.

(A “Yes” vote is for the bill.)

Rep. Christine Barber Yes Rep. Mike Connolly Yes Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven Yes Sen. Patricia Jehlen Yes

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