Houston civil rights activists are outraged after Barbers Hill High School suspended a Black student for wearing his hair in locs.
These leaders and the student’s mother believe the school broke the law — and discriminated against the teen based on his hair texture and/or his choice of hairstyle, which are historically associated with race.
The school says the junior violated the school district’s dress code.
“Male students’ hair must not extend below the top of a T-shirt collar or be gathered or worn in a style that would allow the hair to extend below the top of a T-shirt collar, below the eyebrows, or below the ear lobes when let down,” the dress code policy says.
Darryl George’s mother, Darresha George, says her son had received warnings from the school, including multiple disciplinary action notes, and was placed on in-school suspension for wearing his hair in locs. Eventually, the school suspended her son, not recognizing the newly passed CROWN ACT that prohibits such actions.
In May 2023, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott enacted the CROWN Act (House Bill 567), which bans race-based hair discrimination in workplaces, schools, and housing policies. The law took effect on Sept. 1, making one of 20 states to adopt this legislation.
The 17-year-old was suspended within a week of the act going into action.
The school records show that Darryl was placed on in-school suspension for weeks in the past because his hair, when unpinned, is longer than his eyebrows. However, this was not the only disciplinary violation, the records show.
According to Barbers Hill High, the young man cursed while he was on in-house suspension, which was an example of his disruptive behavior.
The school has warned him that if he doesn’t cut his hair by the end of the week, he may be required to attend an alternative school for students who violate codes of conduct or laws.
Attorney Allie Booker told KHOU that he doesn’t believe the boy’s hair is a violation of the school code.
“As long as hair is not below the lobes, below the eyelids, hiding his eyes, on the nape of the neck or at the collar, he’s fine. And it doesn’t matter if he twists his locks up,” Booker said.
Democratic state Rep. Ron Reynolds, one of the authors of the CROWN Act legislation in Texas, is also standing with the Georges, reminding the media of an earlier incident in 2020. Three years ago, the same school was at the center of a similar controversy involving two male students with locs, De’Andre Arnold and Kaden Bradford.
Like Darryl, both young men were punished with in-house suspension because they would not cut their hair, hair that did not adhere to the district’s hair policy.
The mothers advocated for the young men, but instead of focusing on the racial discrimination implied by hair bias, they zeroed in on the gender-based bias that allows girls to have long hair but not boys.
Kaden’s mother said her son had worn his hair in locs since he was in sixth grade and that, in the past, schools allowed him to wear them if they were pulled back. He complied.
De’Andre did not wear his hair back but pulled up, as the policy specifically addressed hair hanging past eyebrows, ear lobes, and below the shirt collar. Because he would not cut his hair, he was prohibited from participating in his senior year graduation.
The mothers sued the district “alleging that the District’s hair length restrictions, which apply solely to male students, constitute sex discrimination under the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.”
The DOJ agreed with the parents.
“Had De’Andre and K.B. been female, their hair would not have run afoul of the District’s hair length policy. But because they are male, the District disciplined them for noncompliance.”
“Absolutely zero excuse for this school district that knows the policy to do this all over again. It feels like déjà vu,” Reynolds told CNN this week. This incident prompted her and her colleagues to fight to get the CROWN Act passed.
While many are discussing how the district should move forward, Darryl’s mother sheds light on the teen.
“He’s very anxious,” she said. “[He’s] very aggravated right now because he keeps getting punished for something that’s irrelevant to his education.”
It is with the teen’s personal health in mind that the Texas Legislative Black Caucus cautioned the school district to ensure it aligns with the new CROWN Act and is currently advocating for expunging the disciplinary actions taken against Darryl from his record.