SAD 1 updates its discrimination policy to include hair styles

2 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Maine School Administrative District 1 updated its Student Discrimination and Harassment Complaint Procedure to include hair style in compliance with the Maine Human Rights Act’s updated definition.

The change in SAD 1 was a proactive measure to update discrimination policies and procedures already in place in the school district. The effective date for the Maine Human Rights Act update was August 2022.

Gov. Janet Mills signed LD598, which was An Act to Prohibit Discrimination in Employment and Schools Based on Hair Texture or Hair Style. The Legislature looked at the national trend and decided to make the change this year to amend the Maine Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on hairstyle, or hair texture.

“Typically whenever there’s a legislative session, there’s a number of law changes that go into effect and if they impact education in any way, whether it’s employment or whether it’s our students we review our policies to ensure we are in compliance with our updated laws. We did that very thing at our September board meeting due to LD598,” SAD 1 Superintendent Ben Greenlaw said.

“[SAD 1] made the change just to remain in compliance and make sure our students and our staff are not being discriminated against,” Greenlaw said.

The definition under the Maine Human Rights Act included traits associated with race based on hair texture and certain hairstyles like braids, twists, locks and afros. The purpose is to comply with a school’s dress code and attend events such as graduation and sporting events.

“All students should be able to attend school without fear of discrimination and harassment and those sorts of things. If this policy helps to do that to further clarify that and make school more accessible and a safer environment for them, I think that’s great and I’d say the same thing for our employees,” Greenlaw said.