Idaho to Stop Criminalizing Hair Braiding Without a License

Idaho to Stop Criminalizing Hair Braiding Without a License

Idaho will no longer criminalize hair braiding without a license.

According to Forbes, Governor Brad Little signed a bill that would stop the prosecution of unlicensed hair braiding last week. The state previously classified unlicensed hair braiding as a misdemeanor that carried a fine of up to $1,000 for each violation.

The move comes after the Institute for Justice sued the Barber and Cosmetology Services Licensing Board in federal court last month on behalf of three women named Sonia Ekemon, Tedy Okech and Charlotte Amoussou. Per AP, obtaining a professional cosmetology license is a prohibitively expensive and time-consuming effort, with a requirement of 1,600 hours of training and a price tag of up to $20,000.

The criminalization resulted in many African-style hair braiders being forced underground and unable to advertise their services, despite many already having extensive training and experience. It also prevented people traveling through Idaho and Black adoptees from finding a salon offering the service.

When the suit was filed, Idaho was one of five states still requiring a license for hair braiding, even though cosmetology schools don't have to have natural hair treatments or African hair styling braiding courses. As noted by the Institute of Justice at the time, cosmetology schools mostly teach hair cutting, coloring and chemical treatment with only 2 out of 110 questions on the written exam pertaining to braiding. Notably, the state also doesn't require a license for other procedures like microblading.

“I have a friend who actually attended cosmetology school,” as Okech told AP. “She went to Paul Mitchell for a good two years. She said she spent $25,000 in schooling. … She didn’t learn how to braid hair. In fact, they wanted her to teach the rest of the class how to braid hair.”

You can read Forbes' entire report here.

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