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October 8, 2021
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JP O'Hare

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In Honor of International Day of the Girl, State Education Department Issues Guidance to Schools Regarding the Crown Act

CROWN Act Prohibits Discrimination Based on Hair Texture or Hairstyle

In honor of International Day of the Girl, the New York State Education Department today released guidance to assist local education agencies in their obligation to implement and educate students about the CROWN Act, State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa announced. The CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, prohibits racial discrimination based on hair texture or hairstyles and protects students’ rights to wear or treat their hair however they desire, without the threat of racial discrimination or loss of access to school. Each year on October 11, International Day of the Girl celebrates the importance, power, and potential of girls around the world.

“The Board, through its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy, is committed to building the self-esteem and identity of those students who have been historically marginalized in our schools and in society,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. “New York was one of the first states to pass the CROWN Act and while enacting the law was a crucial first step, a law alone cannot change stigma. That is why we are providing our educators with guidance and resources to engage students on this important issue.”

“For many students across our state, especially girls, the way in which they wear their hair is more than just an expression of personal style, it is representative of their heritage and their story,” said Commissioner Betty A. Rosa. “Every child has a right to feel proud of their culture and should never be forced to change their hairstyle to fit in.  Our CROWN Act guidance and resources will enable teachers to have meaningful conversations on discrimination and how it effects their fellow students.”

In 2019, the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) was amended by the CROWN Act to add the definition of race that includes traits such as hair texture and protective hairstyles such as locs, braids and twists to protect students’ access to their public education, regardless of how they choose to wear or style their hair. While DASA already protects the right of all students to learn in schools free of discrimination, harassment and bullying, it was clarified that those rights include self-expression through hairstyle.

The CROWN Act provides the opportunity for districts and schools to engage students, staff and the community in the process to revisit and revise their codes of conduct and dress codes to include the provisions of the CROWN Act and the Commissioner’s Regulations regarding DASA.

Under DASA and the CROWN Act, schools are responsible for ensuring that:

  • teaching staff and other school personnel are aware of the Crown Act;
  • school personnel understand that formal disciplinary action against students based on their natural hair texture and protective hairstyles is prohibited;
  • school personnel understand that, given their inherent position of authority over students, they are responsible for preventing racial discrimination and supporting all students’ access to school, participation in activities and inclusion for opportunities inside and outside of the classroom; and
  • the CROWN Act helps to promote school belonging and engagement for all students, reduces disparities in school discipline, increases educational engagement and academic success and protects students, regardless of gender or gender identity.

In December 2011, the United Nations declared October 11 as the International Day of the Girl, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. International Day of the Girl Child focuses on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment, and the fulfilment of their human rights.

For additional information on the CROWN Act or DASA, please visit the Department’s Dignity for All Students Act website.