AUSTIN (CN) - A woman who teaches African hair braiding says Texas is illegally forcing her to get a license, for which she first needs 2,250 hours of classes.
Isis Brantley sued William Kuntz Jr., in his official capacity as director of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, and seven members of the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation, in Federal Court.
Brantley says she started braiding hair at age 6 and began making a living doing it after high school.
The Institute of Ancestral Braiding, which Brantley opened in 1981, has been operating at the same Dallas location for nearly 20 years, the complaint states.
There, Brantley allegedly provides braiding services to the public and hair-braiding instructions to students who want to become African hair braiders.
"The practice involves the intricate twisting, braiding, weaving, and locking of hair using a braider's hand, mostly for African-American clients," the complaint states.
Brantley says she charges between $250 and $750 for the instruction, and has taught "everyone from homeless women ... to state-licensed cosmetologists interested in learning African hair braiding."
Continuing its tradition of imposing nonsensical regulations on hair braiders, Brantley says Texas enacted a law in 2007 that requires 35 hours of instruction to receive a hair-braiding license.
Some time earlier, the state had allegedly imposed a 1,500-hour cosmetology license on African hair braiders "even though it was wholly irrelevant" to hair braiding.
"In 1997, seven law enforcement officers (including undercover officers) entered plaintiff Brantley's hair braiding business and arrested her for braiding hair without a
cosmetology license," the complaint states. "After her release, she was required to pay a $600 fine for the offense of braiding without a license." (Parentheses in original.)
In June a lawyer for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation sent Brantley a letter notifying her she must obtain a barber instructor license to teach hair braiding at her own school.
"In total, the 'Barber Instructor License' requires that African hair braiding instructors obtain 2,250 hours of instruction and pass four examinations to teach Texas's 35-hour hair braiding curriculum: a 1,500-hour class-A barber curriculum; an additional 750 hours of instruction in teaching barber students; and both a written and practical exam for the class-A barber license and the barber instructor license," the complaint states.
Brantley says the barber schooling is "wholly irrelevant" to hair braiding as the words "hair braiding" or "braid" appear nowhere in the curriculum.
And that's not all, Brantley says, as Texas mandates that anyone teaching "barbering," including the 35-hours of instruction needed for a hair braiding license, teach at a licensed barber college, and that all barber colleges in cities with more than 50,000 residents, like Dallas, have at least 2,000 square feet of floor space.
"Brantley estimates the cost to comply with the Barber School Laws defendants are applying to her and her business will require over $25,000 in renovation and equipment costs, and would increase her monthly rent from the $400 per month she currently pays to occupy space at a small community center, to between $1,500 to $2,000 per month for commercial space containing at least 2,000 square-feet of floor space," the complaint states.
Brantley claims that the rules violate her 14th Amendment rights as they "unreasonably and arbitrarily interfere with her ability to offer hair braiding instruction."
She wants the regulations declared unconstitutional and injunctions to prohibit Texas from enforcing them.
Arif Panju with the Institute for Justice in Austin represents Brantley.
Susan Stanford, public information officer with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The agency's policy is to not comment on pending litigation, she said.
In Utah last year, a judge found it was unconstitutional for the state to require a woman to get a cosmetic license so that she could charge customers for hair braiding.
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