Platkin Announces Agreement to Ensure Non-Discriminatory and Equitable Hair Styling Education

A high school wrestler gets an infamous pre-match haircut at Buena.

Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division on Civil Rights (DCR) today announced an agreement with the Gloucester County Vocational-Technical School District that ensures the cosmetology program at the Gloucester County Institute of Technology (GCIT) will instruct all of its students in the theory and practice of styling Black and other textured hair. The agreement serves as an important model for steps cosmetology schools across the State can take to ensure the availability of hair styling services for people with Black and other textured hair.

Under the terms of the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance announced today, the school district, which operates GCIT, committed to “maintain a sufficient number of mannequins with all hair types and textures, including Black and other textured hair, so that each student has the opportunity to practice skills on all types and textures of hair.” GCIT specifically agreed that at least 20% of its mannequins will have Black hair.

The agreement also ensures that Cosmetology Department staff at GCIT will instruct all students in the theory and practice of styling all hair types and textures, regardless of the race/ethnicity of the student, and will instruct students on DCR’s guidance on race discrimination in hairstyles.

The Assurance of Voluntary Compliance resolves an investigation regarding allegations of race discrimination in the school’s cosmetology program. The investigation addressed allegations that GCIT’s Cosmetology Department did not require non-Black students to learn theoretical and practical skills related to Black and other textured hair and did not maintain sufficient mannequins to enable all students to style Black and other textured hair.

“New Jerseyans should be confident that cosmetology programs in our state are adequately preparing all students to be able to cut and style all hair types and textures,” said Attorney General Platkin. “Today’s agreement provides an important baseline for how cosmetology schools across our State can create more inclusive programs and better serve cosmetology patrons who have historically been marginalized or denied service.”

“In many parts of our State, it can be difficult for Black residents and other people of color to receive appropriate hair styling services. It is therefore critical that styling Black and textured hair be part of the foundational training that all cosmetology schools provide to all students,” said Division on Civil Rights Director Sundeep Iyer.

“This agreement serves as a model for how cosmetology schools across New Jersey can ensure they are providing an equitable education that affords all cosmetology students the opportunity to serve all clients upon graduation, including those with Black and textured hair.”

The agreement marks another step forward for the Department of Law and Public Safety’s Racial Justice Initiative, a Department-wide initiative to address historic racial inequity through the Department’s work.

The agreement also furthers the underlying aims of the Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act, or CROWN Act. The CROWN Act is a state law enacted in 2019 that clarifies that prohibited race discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination includes discrimination based on traits historically associated with race, including hair texture, type, and styles such as braids, locks, and twists.

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Deputy Attorney General Mary Kenah, under the supervision of Civil Rights Section Chief James Michael, Assistant Attorney General Mayur Saxena, and Deputy Director Jason W. Rockwell, within the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group, represented the Division on Civil Rights in this matter.

Within the Division on Civil Rights, Senior Advisor for Affirmative Enforcement Danielle Thorne, under the supervision of Associate Director for Affirmative Enforcement Malcolm Peyton-Cook and Chief Advisor to the Director Aarin Williams, handled the matter.

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