Hair-Braiders Sue for Freedom to Teach

Published October 3, 2013

Should African hair-braiders have to build an entire barber college and become state-approved barbering instructors in order to teach hair-braiding?

That is the question to be answered by a federal lawsuit filed against the state of Texas by Dallas entrepreneur Isis Brantley and the Institute for Justice. A victory could promote economic liberty throughout Texas and beyond.

Hundreds of Hours, Thousands of Dollars

Isis Brantley is one of the country’s leading African hair-braiders. She works with everyone from Grammy Award-winning artist Erykah Badu to the homeless. But Texas will not permit Isis to teach hair-braiding for a living unless she spends 750 hours in barber school, passes four exams that do not cover braiding, and spends thousands of dollars on tuition and a fully equipped barber college she doesn’t need. 

Tellingly, Texas will waive all these regulations if Isis goes to work for an existing barber school and teaches hair-braiding for them.

“Texas has no problem with Isis teaching, it just has a problem with her working for herself,” said Attorney Arif Panju of the Institute for Justice. “Braiders aren’t barbers, and braiding instructors should not be forced to build barber schools and take classes from barbers.”

Licensing Rebel

Isis is no stranger to fighting for economic liberty. In 1997, seven government officials raided her business and hauled her off in handcuffs for braiding hair without a special government license. Isis succeeded in having the law changed in 2007, but Texas officials simply wedged hair-braiding into the state’s barbering statute, allowing her to braid hair while making it nearly impossible for her to teach hair-braiding for a living.

“Isis wants to teach the next generation of African hair-braiders,” said IJ Texas Executive Director Matt Miller. “The quality of Isis’s teaching does not depend on whether she is standing next to a short-haired mannequin or a pile of barbering textbooks.”

“This lawsuit means economic liberty for my community,” said IJ client Isis Brantley. “Economic liberty is especially important for black women.  This is our new civil rights movement.”

Source: Institute for Justice