Law Professor Leads Charge to End Discriminatory Policies on Hairstyles

Law professor Kimberly Norwood wants to end policies that discriminate against black hair styles. (Courtesy of Washington University School of Law)
Law professor Kimberly Norwood wants to end policies that discriminate against black hair styles. (Courtesy of Washington University School of Law)

Two civil rights organizations have joined a professor of African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis in her bid to end discriminatory policies regarding black hairstyles worn by students in schools across the country.

Kimberly Norwood, a Henry H. Oberschelp Professor of Law, co-authored a letter that was signed by 120 legal scholars who argued that the hair policies are discriminatory. As a result, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union have taken on the legal fight.

“Several school districts around the nation have adopted policies that prevent students from wearing their hair in braids, twists, dreadlocks and Afros, and even Afro puffs,” Norwood said in a statement. “These styles are typically excluded as unprofessional, extreme, distracting or faddish; these conclusions are wrong and have a discriminatory impact on one group of students in particular: African-descendant students.”

Norwood added that she and her supporters hope educators and policymakers recognize there’s nothing wrong or unacceptable about African-American hair, and that they will implement training and policies to convey such knowledge.

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