Across the country, black students are policed in schools for their natural hair and protective hairstyles. As a result of this, students who do not conform to their school’s grooming policy or dress code may suffer stiff consequences including being suspended or expelled. The most notable federal piece of legislation in response to this issue was introduced in December 2019. The CROWN Act prohibits race-based hair discrimination on the federal level. The bill passed the House but the Senate blocked it in December 2021.

Despite this recent development, states and municipalities are enacting the CROWN Act across the country. Over twenty states have versions of the race-based hair discrimination law. Even in states where the CROWN Act is not law, municipalities are enacting their own versions, as well. Nevertheless, these local laws contain a loophole which exempts religious schools from having to adhere to it.

This Note argues the loophole grants religious schools the ability to penalize black students for their natural hair and protective hairstyles via grooming policies and dress codes. This, in turn, may perpetuate serious ramifications like introducing students to the school-to-prison pipeline and impacting their educational opportunities. I argue that in order to ensure black students are not negatively targeted for their hair, the loophole needs to be closed, or maybe more practical, made smaller. This Note details how this can be accomplished by having courts apply the “genuine religious principle test.” Such test would be used to analyze whether grooming policies implemented by religious schools are truly following genuine religious principles from their faith. If not, the grooming policy should be found in violation of the CROWN Act.