Senate Bill 174 Signed at Local Black-Owned Barber Shop

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – On Thursday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed Senate Bill 174 at the Anchorage hair salon A Head of Time Design Academy.

A Head of Time owner Rosalyn Wyche said the event was an honor.

Senator David Wilson sponsored SB 174, a bill that will ensure K-12 students are not discriminated against by school hairstyle policies. Additionally, the bill will allow students to wear traditional regalia and other culturally significant items at graduation ceremonies.

Senator Wilson said the bill was dear and close to him because of the past experiences he – and his friends and family members – have faced. Wilson says he’s heard stories of students being sent home because teachers couldn’t understand the context of the hairstyle.

“The feeling that it wasn’t maintained or dirty,” Wilson said.

Wyche, who testified in support of the bill, hopes and continues to fight for this opportunity to be extended to the workforce. Wyche says culture means a lot and people should be able to express themselves through their culture.

“I think the culture means a lot, and it’s in the hairstyle, the clothes that we wear, and I just think it’s a great bill,” Wyche said.

A bill to address this workplace issue was introduced in the House of Representatives, but did not pass. However, Senator Wilson hopes he can try again to put a bill in place in the next legislative session to end discrimination in work environments.

“Having these kinds of opportunities was just a blessing to be able to go through something like this and what it means to a lot of the community,” Wilson said. “We are unhappy that it has been removed from the workplace. It was an amendment that happened on the floor of the house, but we believe that hopefully at the next session we will be able to pass this article.”

Wyche said she wouldn’t think anyone should fight to wear their natural hair, to have their children not discriminated against, or to not be fired because of their natural hair.

“The ability to speak has not always been granted to all facets of our society,” said Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, who co-sponsored the bill. “Unfortunately for so many black Americans, this notion is especially true. For centuries, black Americans have had laws controlling their identity, especially their hair. SB 174 is a step in the right direction toward reconciliation and allowing all facets of our community to speak freely without fear or discrimination.

The bill was first passed by the Senate 13 to 1 on March 30, then by the House of Representatives 34 to 5 on May 10. The addition to the bill was accepted by a vote of 17 to 3 by the House of Representatives.

The addition of being able to wear traditional insignia was placed in the bill by Representative Mike Cronk to help protect students from discrimination for wanting to wear cultural clothing in a ceremony.

“It’s a blessing that now it’s the law. And when you have a bill that has the force of law, it’s there,” Wyche said.

Norman D. Briggs