The U.S. Navy announced on Wednesday it was going to discharge Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Jessica Sims for not changing her traditional African-American hairstyle.
Sims was scheduled to be honorably discharged today after refusing to change her hair, which she says has been in its current style during most of her time in the Navy since 2005.
Sims didn't experience any problems until she was assigned to teach at a Navy boot camp in Illinois.
Navy officials at the boot camp claimed that Sims' tightly-wound dreadlocks, which were twisted into a bun, violated regulations and would be problematic when placing on a gas mask.
“For the past couple weeks, not knowing what the Navy was going to do, if they were going to move forward with the discharge or keep me in, had me in a little limbo,” Sims told the Navy Times. “In the back of my head I knew that they weren’t going to change, so it was more of just waiting for the date.”
Chief of Naval Personnel spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Chris Servello claimed that Sims disobeyed a lawful order to conform her hair to Navy regulations in April.
Sims says that the Navy bans “widely-spaced individual hanging locks,” but her locks are actually closely-spaced, worn in a bun and don’t violate the rules.
“I don’t think I should be told that I have to straighten my hair in order to be within what they think the regulations are, and I don’t think I should have to cover it up with a wig,” she told the Navy Times.
Sims insists that she has never had any problems wearing safety helmets or gas masks.
The Army Times reported earlier this month the U.S. Defense Department announced the Navy would change its rules and allow, "Authorized two-strand twists" and "Authorized multiple braids to hang freely if they remain above the collar and encompass the whole head."
“To me, my natural hair is professional,” stated Sims. “It’s all how you keep yourself up. I could just have a regular bun and not take care of that and it could look unprofessional.”
“I am happy that I took the stand that I did,” said Sims. “I still stand by it. I would do it again if I had to. I won’t be the last one standing up fighting for this issue. I have faith in our junior sailors because they are the future of our Navy, and the majority of them were supporting the right thing.”
Sims plans to start her schooling at Loyola University of Chicago on Monday, and major in biology.