Des Moines Women Sue Iowa Board of Cosmetology

Nov 9, 2015

In Iowa, it takes more time to get a license to practice cosmetology than it does to become an emergency medical technician. That's part of the reason why two Des Moines women are suing the state's Board of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences. Achan Agit is one of those women. 

Agit immigrated to the United States after fleeing civil war in Sudan in 2004. Before she moved to Iowa, she had been supporting her family by braiding hair for money in Missouri. Agit learned African hair braiding when she was 5 years old and has been braiding professionally since she was 10. But when she moved to Des Moines, she discovered that it was illegal for her to do so without completing cosmetology school in Iowa and following standard licensing procedures. She says she should be able to braid professionally without going back to cosmetology school. 

"Schools in Iowa don't teach the skills I have," she says. "And it's very expensive to go to school." 

During this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer talks with Agit, and Megan Forbes, Agit's attorney, about the lawsuit. 

During the 2015 legislative session, legislation failed to amend the state's licensing requirements to allow African immigrants in Des Moines to braid hair professionally without going to cosmetology school. 

State Representative John Wills from Spirit Lake worked on that legislation and also joins the conversation. He says sanitation is a primary concern of his and other lawmakers who back the requirement to obtain a cosmetology license.

Practicing cosmetology without a license in Iowa is punishable by up to one year in prison and civil fines as high as $10,000.