Texas high schooler suspended for wearing locs

In the same week that the state’s CROWN Act, which outlaws discrimination based on hair type and texture, went into effect, Darryl George found himself heading to in-school suspension.

A Texas high school student is pushing back against a dress code policy that has landed him in in-school suspension for weeks.

According to The Washington Post, Darryl George, a 17-year-old junior in the Barbers Hill Independent School District in Mont Belvieu, about 30 miles east of Houston, received dress code infractions before being suspended on Aug. 31. Family attorney Allie Booker said he has until next week to cut his hair or face going to an alternate school.

In the same week that the state’s CROWN Act, which outlaws long-standing discrimination based on hair type and texture, went into effect, George was disciplined because of a policy prohibiting him from wearing his hair in locs.

Texas CROWN Act
Darryl George, a teen in Texas’ Barbers Hill Independent School District, has been suspended because of a policy that prohibits him from wearing his hair in dreadlocks. (Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube.com/ABC13 Houston)

Darresha George said her son cannot work with his regular instructor or receive the necessary education while he is under in-school suspension. He reportedly cannot interact with anybody or join the football team, only leaving the suspension room to use the restroom.

“He’s very frustrated. He’s aggravated,” Darresha George said. “He’s not giving up the fight because he doesn’t want others behind him to have to go through this.”

At least 24 states now have versions of the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act, or the Crown Act. For students with locs like George, wearing their hair in locs goes well beyond a trend, said civil rights activist Candice Matthews, who is fighting for the George family.

“It’s personal because it’s your heritage, it’s your culture. This is from our ancestors. How dare [they] try to rip that from us,” Matthews said. “You don’t see us trying to control White people’s hair. So why are [they] trying to control ours?”

A district representative reportedly said George’s suspension is due to the length of his hair rather than its style. Per the district’s dress code, boys’ hair must be shorter than their earlobes and eyebrows.

However, Texas lawmakers, including Rep. Ron Reynolds (D), who co-authored the state’s law, said the district is defying the spirit of the Crown Act and breaking the statute. He pointed out that many natural hairstyles need to be of a certain length to have something to twist, braid, or loc.

Reynolds, chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, wrote to district officials on the group’s behalf to remind them that the legislation went into effect on Sept. 1 and to ask that the district change its policy to reflect this.

He said schools frequently forbid students from donning caps, baring their midriffs, or wearing clothing with obscene messages to preserve a degree of decorum. However, laws that limit racial, ethnic, or cultural expression establish a “superiority” based on Eurocentric standards.

The school district informed Darresha George that the Crown Act does not apply to hair length, so its policy does not contravene the law. Booker said the family will likely seek legal action, and the district has not offered proof that George’s hair interferes with the learning environment.

At a time when dress codes are being contested nationwide for discrimination based on gender, culture, or other factors, Jennesa Calvo-Friedman, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project, noted that public schools that receive federal funding such as Barbers Hill risk violating discrimination laws unless they can prove “an overwhelmingly persuasive purpose” for the requirements.

“The fundamental point for us is that a kid’s hair or the way their hair grows out of their head doesn’t have anything to do with their ability to learn,” Calvo-Friedman said, The Post reported. “We think that’s unlawful for any kid, but it harms kids who don’t want to adhere to outdated notions of what gender should look like, or kids who want to demonstrate their cultural identity through locs or hairstyles that aren’t seen by people in power as acceptable.”

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