Texas Judge Rules That School Legally Punished Black Student Over His Hairstyle

Photo By Michael Wyke/ Associated Press

A Texas judge has ruled that the monthslong punishment of a Black high school student by his school district for refusing to change his hairstyle does not violate a new state law that prohibits race-based hair discrimination, according to The Associated Press. 

As ESSENCE previously reported, 18-year-old Darryl George hasn’t attended regular classes at his Houston-area high school, Barbers Hill, since August 31 because the school says he is in violation of its policy limiting boys’ hair length.

The school district filed a lawsuit claiming George’s long hair, which he wears in locs tied on top of his head, violates its dress code policy because when it is let down, it will fall below his shirt collar, eyebrows, or earlobes. According to the school district, other students with locs comply with the length policy.

Following just a few hours of testimony, State District Judge Chap Cain III ruled that the school district’s continual discipline of George is legal under The CROWN Act based on his hair length. The majority of George’s school year has been either spent in school suspensions at Barbers Hill High School or in an off-site disciplinary program.

“We appreciate the court giving clarity to the meaning of the CROWN Act,” said Sara Leon, an attorney for the school district.

Darryl George said, “It was just sad” that the school district was punishing him over his hairstyle.

In Texas, the CROWN Act took effect in September and prohibits employers and schools from discriminating against people with protective hairstyles, such as “Afros, braids, locs, twists or Bantu knots.”

 Democratic state Rep. Ron Reynolds, one of the co-authors of the CROWN Act, testified that hair length was not specifically discussed when the CROWN Act was proposed, but “length was inferred with the very nature of the style.”

“Anyone familiar with braids, locs, twists knows it requires a certain amount of length,” Reynolds said.

As stated in court documents, the district asserts that it did not violate the CROWN Act because it does not cover hair length or mention it.

As part of its lawsuit against the governor, George’s family filed a formal complaint with the Texas Education Agency. A federal court in Galveston is hearing a lawsuit alleging that Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and the school district failed to enforce the CROWN Act.

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