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State House Committees advance bills on natural hair discrimination and juvenile detention

Delaware Public Media

A bill banning discrimination based on natural hair styles is on it’s way for a final vote in the state House.


The CROWN act would broaden the definition of racial discrimination to include discrimination based on natural hair styles.


Senate lawmakers approved the bill unanimously back in January.


Some members of the House Administration Committee raised concerns it could limit places like fire departments or military schools from enforcing hairstyles.


Division of Research Director Mark Cutrona says this bill won’t override any existing legislation.


“Looking at having a neutral approach. If there’s a health or safety or other reason to exclude certain hairstyles, that is permitted. It is the exclusion for no reason which is the basis of discrimination.”


House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear) also wants to explore including protections for other hairstyles, including baldness.


She pointed to Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley who lost all her hair from Alopecia. Longhurst says she wants others like Pressley to be protected from discrimination as well.


State lawmakers also advanced a bill that would end youth incarceration in adult prisons in the First State.


During the House Judiciary Committee meeting, State Rep. Jeffery Speigleman (R-Clayton) asked if the bill would force kids to be moved around if they’re incarcerated close to turning 18.


Office of Defense Services Chief of Legal Services Lisa Minutolasays there’s actually plenty of flexibility in those cases.


“I would assume that between the prosecutor, the defense attorney, the probation officer, the case worker from YRS who’s working on that case and the judge, they can come up with some creative solutions around that issue.”


Minutola adds the Kids Department can keep kids under its care until they turn 19, giving them time to coordinate a transfer, or finish a program the juvenile is involved in.


The bill would end the Department of Correction’s Youthful Criminal Offenders Program, which allows teens ages 16 to 18 convicted in Superior Court to be housed in adult prisons.


DOC did not show up to defend that program Tuesday, but previously told Delaware Public Media in a statement children in the program receive specialized, one-on-one treatment and services.


Both bills now head to the House floor for a vote.


Roman Battaglia a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

This story has been corrected. Lisa Minutola is with the Office of Defense Services, not the Department of Justice


Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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