Cosmetology professionals react to bill that would deregulate licensing requirements in Tennessee

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Two bills have been filed in the Tennessee House and Senate that would deregulate licensing requirements for more than 25 jobs in the state.

One of those occupations: cosmetology.

According to the two bills, a person may perform cosmetology without a license, only if the customer is aware the person is not licensed. They must also waive claims against them.

SB1914 and HB1945 have been a hot topic in hair salons and cosmetology schools across the Tri-Cities.

The Jenny Lea Academy of Cosmetology, in Johnson City, licensing cosmetologists for the last 35 years.

Cosmetology professionals want lawmakers to know these licenses, which require 1500 practice hours, hold more substance than just mixing colors.

“You take away the need for the license and you take away that safeguard for yourself,” Kathy Hatley said.

Kathy Hatley is the admissions director of Jenny Lea Academy in Johnson City. In her 40 years of being a cosmetologist, she said the companion bills introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly are shocking.

“You study anatomy, you study the muscles in the face and you learn so many things. It’s so much more than just making people look pretty,” Hatley said.

Her biggest concern is sanitation, which is taught heavily in the 10-month course at Jenny Lea Academy.

Roughly 50-70 students attend Jenny Lea Academy each year, according to admissions director Kathy Hatley.

“Infection control… We understand that as far as in a dental office, or in a medical situation or in a medical setting. You don’t understand that we have to maintain sterile equipment in supplies as well,” Hatley said. “Different things like the temperature of wax. Products that we’re using on your ski, for instance like glycolic peel. You need knowledge on how to do that, so we’re not scarring your skin.”

Cosmetology students have a high rate on the state board, according to Hatley.

“All of our courses here, I’m proud to say as a disclosure, everyone passes that state board with a 100% rate. We have a teacher here that’s specifically for state board exams, state board prep, that deals with things like sanitation and skills. That’s a huge part of our test,” Hatley said.

Cosmetology student Rhonda Black is pictured here, along with a few of her other peers.

One of those students is Rhonda Black, who is three months shy of graduation.

Black said it is disheartening to know the license and career she has invested time and money in could be deregulated.

“We’ve already got people getting blood-borne pathogens, from unsanitary salons as is, so instead of cracking down on it, I feel like just allowing anybody to do it and just signing a piece of paper saying, ‘Oh, we’re not liable. I’m going to do your hair…’ I think it’s just irresponsible,” Black said.

Black said this change would not be beneficial to clients either.

Rouge Salon and Gallery employees have about 10-15 years of experience, according to owner Rebecca Smith.

“A lot of stuff that you can really mess up and you can actually hard people from it, Black said.

Hatley said no one with a licensed salon would hire an unlicensed individual, and salon owner Rebecca Smith agrees.

“I honestly would never hire anyone that did not have a license, so it’s a no for me,” Rebecca Smith said. “This is kind of a slap in the face for us that work very hard to achieve what we have achieved.”

Smith has high expectations for someone walking into Rouge Salon and Gallery, located in Johnson City.

Rouge Salon and Gallery is an upscale, Schwarzkopf exclusive, hair salon in Johnson City, for the last 10 years.

Smith said, “They have to be up to par with all the newest technique. Within safety, if they don’t know how to properly mix. They have to know how to take care of a client because we’re putting chemicals on a client and it could potentially be dangerous, if they have an allergy to something. I have very high expectations for someone that’s coming in here.”

If passed, the two bills would go in effect July 1, 2020.

The bills not only apply to cosmetologists, the Tennessee General Assembly website has a list of more than 25 other jobs to which the bills could apply.

That includes architects, contractors, home inspectors, funeral directors, real estate brokers, and tattoo artists.

You can join the conversation on the WJHL Facebook page on whether or not you agree with the bill introductions and why.

On February 8, a Change.org petition was created and has garnered more than 30,000 signatures, so far, against the idea deregulating the licenses.

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