BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Two hairstylists are fighting license requirements for braiding hair in Louisiana that cost thousands of dollars worth of training, claiming it violates their rights.
The Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology says it established the licensing requirements in the name of health and safety. The two sides were back in court this week to make their respective cases for why the judge should decide the case in their favor and avoid going to trial.
“The Black woman is the only woman in the world that deals with so much,” said hair entrepreneur and plaintiff, Ashley N’Dakpri.
N’Dakpri says she is seeking to remove barriers, like extensive licensing, for young women pursuing a career in hair braiding.
“I feel like I’m making life a little easier for the little girls after me.”
In court, the hair braiders argued the license requirement was unconstitutional while the Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology argues they are operating within their rights.
Fellow plaintiff and Afro Touch Owner Lynn Schofield said hair braiding goes back hundreds of years, without a license.
“I’m originally from Africa and we’re braiding each other’s hair since we [were] younger,” said Schofield.
“It’s a part of our culture,” added N’Dakpri.
Schofield, a veteran braider, said the licensing costs put a financial burden on potential stylists and businesses.
“When it happened, it cost me a lot. It cost me a lot to lose all my shop and my braiders because the braiders couldn’t braid without a license. So I lost a lot, a lot of money,” explained Schofield.
The Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology said in a statement:
“The minimum educational requirements for a permit include training in bacteriology and sanitation, and infection control. Basic knowledge of these subjects is necessary to protect the customers from injury and illness… Customer safety is paramount. Without proper training, customer safety is at risk. “
“But the problem is that natural hair braiding is completely safe. There is nothing to suggest that natural hair braiding is a risk to the public health, and nothing in the permit requirement actually seeks to protect the public health,” said the hair entrepreneurs’ attorney Keith Neely.
“You don’t need any extra tools or any chemicals to do any braiding” added N’Dakpri.
To obtain the license, braiders must complete 500 hours of training and an exam. Without the license, a business and its workers can be fined.
N’Dakpri and Schofield have been repeatedly cited by the board because they are unlicensed and employ unlicensed braiders. Each citation is the risk of a $5,000 penalty. So far, the citations have not become fines said a spokesman for the braiders.
The Louisiana State Board of Cosmetology said:
“While both plaintiffs agree that training in technique and sanitation is necessary to protect customers, they refuse to obtain permits. One plaintiff let her permit expire and the other who completed her cosmetology education in another country refuses to apply for licensure.”
The court denied both sides during the motion for summary judgment. The Institution for Justice does plan to go to trial. The trial date has not been set.