School and workplace policies that regulate hair textures and styles disproportionately affect Black children and adults, and may lead to negative educational, economic and health outcomes. Most federal and state anti-discrimination laws do not explicitly define race to include the physical characteristics historically associated with race, such as hair texture and protective hairstyles (e.g., braids, locks, twists). As a result, there is legal ambiguity as to whether education and employment policies (e.g., dress codes, hiring/firing practices) related to hair textures and styles constitute a form of discrimination based on race. House Bills 1743, 2185, 2373, 2392 and Senate Bill 994 would prohibit educational institutions that receive state financial assistance or enroll students receiving state financial aid from offering programs and activities that discriminate based on hair texture and protective hairstyles. Some of these bills also add a similar definition of race to an existing Missouri statute (RSMo Chapter 213) that prohibits racial discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing. As of 2022, 14 states and several cities, including Kansas City, have passed similar legislation.
This Note has been updated. You can access the previous version (published February 2021) here.