Texas Student’s Battle Over Hairstyle Continues Amid Legal Complexities
Darryl George, an 18-year-old junior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas, finds himself entangled in a protracted legal battle over his hairstyle, which has kept him disciplined and away from his regular classroom for several months. Despite efforts by his attorney, Allie Booker, to seek a judge’s intervention and a civil rights lawsuit filed by George and his family in September, the situation remains in limbo.
George returned to in-school suspension at Barbers Hill High School last week, extending a period that had previously seen him spend a month at an off-site disciplinary program. The controversy began in August when school officials deemed his locs in violation of the district’s dress code, leading to his removal from the classroom.
Booker emphasized George’s resilience, stating that despite pressure to conform, he remains steadfast in refusing to cut his hair. However, concerns loom over the possibility of his expulsion.
The crux of the legal dispute revolves around whether George’s punishment violates the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act, enacted in Texas in September. The Act aims to prevent race-based hair discrimination, protecting individuals from penalties based on hair texture or protective hairstyles. The family argues that George’s discipline is discriminatory, while the Barbers Hill School District asserts students lack a protected right under federal law to wear their hair at their preferred length and style.
Jonathan Brush, an attorney for the school district, argued during a court hearing that the district has maintained a hair restriction policy for male students for decades. He contended that locs have always been permitted, challenging the notion of a CROWN Act violation.
Legal experts, including William Sherman, the legal strategist for the CROWN Act, highlight the denial of education to George, attributing it to Eurocentric ideals of neatness and cleanliness.
George’s family has further complicated the case by filing a formal complaint with the Texas Education Agency and a federal civil rights lawsuit against Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and the school district, alleging a failure to enforce the CROWN Act. The legal complexities involve motions to consolidate lawsuits, dismissals, and venue changes, adding layers of frustration for George and his legal team.
As the legal proceedings unfold, the case underscores the broader issue of hair expression policies disproportionately affecting Black students and advocates for broader cultural understanding in educational environments. The final resolution, eagerly awaited by George and his supporters, may set important precedents for equitable treatment in schools.