Jonathan Brown, 8, is from Texas. He rocks his dreadlocks proudly. He wants to grow them long. But in late 2019, he was sent home from school with a note. It was from the assistant principal. The note said Jonathan had to have his hair cut to follow the school dress code. His mom is Tiffany Brown. She refused to cut it. “On the way home, Jonathan cried,” she told TIME for Kids.
Many schools have dress codes. They are meant to help students focus on learning. Some prevent boys from wearing their hair long. This bans styles such as afros and dreadlocks. Some ban braids, twists, and other styles associated with black culture.
Jonathan’s story isn’t the only one of its kind. In January, Texas teen DeAndre Arnold was told he needed to cut his dreadlocks to go to his graduation. Twins Mya and Deanna Cook are from Massachusetts. In 2017, they were given detention at their school. The school said their hair extensions violated code.
Esi Eggleston Bracey sees these types of rules as hair discrimination. She helped start the CROWN Coalition. CROWN stands for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.
Tiffany took the issue up with the school board. After about six months, Jonathan’s school changed its code. The CROWN Coalition hopes to prevent other students from having to go through this process. That’s why it champions the CROWN Act. The act seeks to prevent schools and workplaces from discriminating against black people for wearing their hair in “natural styles.”
Bracey wants kids to feel proud of their hair. “There have been far too many incidents of children being sent home, suspended, or expelled from school because of their textured hairstyles,” she says.
The CROWN Act has passed in five states. And there are efforts to pass it nationally. “I think it’s empowering,” Tiffany Brown says. “The CROWN Act is now saying ‘No longer will we be forced to not be who we are. And our hair is included.’”