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Students Will Be Protected Under Michigan’s New CROWN Act

LANSING – A bill signed into law today by Governor Gretchen Whitmer will protect students from harassment, bullying, and discrimination.

Senate Bill 90, sponsored by state Senator Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), amends the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on traits historically associated with race, such as hair texture and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.

Michigan is now the 23rd state in the nation to enact the “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair (CROWN)” Act.

In March, the State Board of Education (SBE) adopted on a bipartisan vote a resolution in support of Senate Bill 90.

“We must remain steadfast in our commitment to cultivating an inclusive school environment, where every student can freely pursue educational opportunities without encountering any form of discrimination, said Dr. Pamela Pugh, president of the Michigan State Board of Education. “I am happy to see this day where the CROWN Act is finally enshrined into Michigan law, thereby providing crucial legal safeguards against race-based hair discrimination. This significant step ensures that students, particularly those from Black and Brown communities, can express their true selves, allowing them to flourish and thrive without limits.”

In its resolution, the State Board of Education noted that Michiganders have faced discrimination because of the way that they choose to wear their hair and that the SBE supports all student learning in schools free of discrimination, harassment, and bullying.

“Hate, bias, and bigotry have no place in our schools in any form,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice. “Children have a right to feel welcome and supported in our schools, free from discrimination. This extension of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act is an important step in creating bias-free schools.”

The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in employment, housing, education, and places of public accommodation based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status.

These are often called “protected categories” with reference to the act. The act is enforced by private lawsuits and by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, which through the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) investigates and acts on discrimination complaints. The bill would provide that, for purposes of the act, the term race includes traits that have been historically associated with race, which would include at least hair texture and protective hairstyles (defined as including at least such hairstyles as braids, locks, and twists).