Family Fights for Son’s Right to Wear Dreadlocks in Texas School Amid Discrimination Allegations

A family has filed a civil lawsuit against Texas state officials over their son’s suspension from school for allegedly violating students’ dress code.

According to a new report published by AP, the family sued the governor and the state’s attorney general in late September for allegedly failing to pass a new law outlawing discrimination based on one’s hairstyle, calling for the state’s bosses to take action and protect the now troubled student.

Darryl George, a 17-year-old student at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, had been under in-school suspension for weeks for allegedly having dreadlocks that fall below his earlobes and eyebrows, thereby violating the district’s dress code, according to Houston-area school officials.

Darresha George, Darryl’s mom, and the family’s lawyer have denied the claims, arguing that the teenager’s dreadlocks were tied on his head in a neatly twisted fashion, thereby seeking a temporary injunction of their son’s ongoing in-school suspension while the matter is being heard in court.

However, the school district has declined to enhance the ongoing punishment against the teenage student as it awaits the determination of the lawsuit filed by George’s family.

The Punishment Violates Texas’s CROWN Act

The decision to hand George weeks of punishment for his hairstyle has also triggered criticisms against the school officials and the county officials, with the suit blaming the Governor and the state’s attorney general for failing in their duty to protect George’s constitutional rights, freedom of speech, and expression.

According to Allie Booker, the family’s attorney, George should be allowed to have his hair in the manner he wears it, arguing that the “neutral grooming policy” the school relied upon in administering the punishment is not closely associated with safety and learning, and directly impacts Black males “disproportionately” when applied.

George’s family has also filed a complaint with the Texas Education Agency, alleging that their son is harassed and mistreated by the school district officials, adding that his punishment violates the CROWN Act— legislation which took effect on September 1, protecting the people of color against race-based hair discrimination in schools and workplaces.

In addition, they accused the school of forcing him to sit for eight hours on a stool and denied the lunch he qualifies for, prompting the agency to investigate the claims.

The School District Files a Counter Lawsuit 

While the agency investigates these claims, the school district has filed a separate lawsuit in a state court to seek clarifications from a judge on whether the dress code limiting hair length for male students violates the CROWN Act.

In support of the school district’s decision that saw George handed a suspension, Barbers Hill Superintendent Greg Poole shared his belief that the dress code was legal, adding that it trains students to conform for the good of all students.

However, this is not the first time the school district officials have found themselves in a legal battle for suspending students over hairstyle. In May 2020, two families sued the school district after it suspended two black students over their dreadlock hairstyle, and a district court judge ruled that the school’s decision was discriminatory.

Big Names Join the Fray

George’s punishment over the dreadlock hairstyle has caught the attention of many, including State Rep. Rhetta Bowers, who called on the Barbers Hill school district to end the in-school punishment, adding that George’s hairstyle was protected by the Texas version of the CROWN Act, which is already active.

“The Texas CROWN Act was passed to prevent situations like this,” Bowers said, as quoted by the AP news, adding that such attempts to “skirt the law” and perpetuate hair discrimination were “very disappointing.”

Rhetta Bowers is the author of the Texas version of the CROWN Act, which has placed Texas among the 24 US states that have enacted their version of the law after the push to pass a nationwide law stalled in the Senate.

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Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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