State Has New Anti-Bias Hair Law. Fresno Schools Say They Comply. - GV Wire - Explore. Explain. Expose
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State Has New Anti-Bias Hair Law. Fresno Schools Say They Comply.



Holly Mitchell, Larry Salinas
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Holly Mitchell had a simple motivation in crafting a law to ban discrimination against natural hairstyles like hers.
“Racism,” the state senator from Los Angeles said during a recent stop in Fresno. Mitchell is black, and wears her hair in braids.
Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Mitchell’s CROWN Act. The acronym stands for Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural hair.
The act, based on Mitchell’s Senate Bill 188, prevents employers and schools from discriminating against hairstyles such as braids, dreadlocks and twists. Those natural styles would be added to Afros, the only hair choice protected by federal law.

“My constituents elected me for what’s inside my head, not how I wear my hair.”State Sen. Holly Mitchell
“My constituents elected me for what’s inside my head, not how I wear my hair,” Mitchell said.
Negative attitudes about cultural hairstyles come from “a lack of understanding about cultural uniqueness and a perception that because my hair isn’t straight and I don’t follow a Eurocentric model of what’s professionalism, then I don’t have the right to wear my hair as I chose in the workplace,” Mitchell said. “It comes from racism.”

FUSD, CUSD Say They Comply

The Fresno area’s two largest school districts, which have a history of strict enforcement of restrictive hairstyle codes, say they are in compliance with the new law.
For Fresno Unified School District, a 2018 incident led to a policy change. Parent Erika Paggett said the district discriminated against her son when he was suspended for his hairstyle. He had lines shaved into the side of his head. Staff at Tenaya Middle School said the hairstyle was a distraction.
After taking her case to the media, and with support from the ACLU, the district changed its policy. A district spokeswoman said its current dress code complies with the CROWN Act.

“Over a year ago we began the work of revising the district dress code, including student hairstyles.  We were ahead of SB 188,” Amy Idsvoog said.
“The CROWN act will protect black people from being discriminated against for their natural hair, a practice which is rooted in a long history of white supremacy. Recent incidents at Fresno Unified in which black students have been punished for their hair demonstrate how necessary this law is,” ACLU attorney Abre’ Conner said.
Clovis Unified, long known for enforcement of a strict dress code, relaxed its rules not long after a 2016 case in which student William Pleasant fought to keep a longer hairstyle. The district, facing strong public pressure on both sides of the issue, initially stood its ground. But it eventually relented, removing gender-specific language from its dress code.
The district says it also is aligned with the CROWN Act.
“We’ve been following this law since the legislation was first introduced, and do not anticipate needing to make any changes to our existing policies,” district spokeswoman Kelly Avants said. “Our current dress code and the allowances it includes for cultural and religious exceptions meet the standards included in SB 188.”

CIF Also in Compliance

When Newsom signed the bill, he referenced an incident in New Jersey that received national attention last year. A high school wrestling referee forced a competitor to cut his dreadlocks in order to compete.
An official the California Interscholastic Federation, which sanctions the state’s high school sports, said there are guidelines for hair in the state’s wrestling rules, but he doubted what happened in New Jersey could happen here.
“It has nothing to do type of hair, it has to do with the length,” said Brian Seymour, CIF senior director. In the case of the New Jersey wrestler, a hair covering or cap would have sufficed.
“We’ve had that rule in place for many, many years. So there won’t be any change for us, whatsoever,” Seymour said. “Lack of communications (in New Jersey) really caused that to spiral out of control.”
Seymour noted that thousands of high school girls with long hair compete in wrestling, along with boys wearing cornrows or dreadlocks.
“We don’t anticipate having any issue in the future,” he said.

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email