‘Hair Ban’ at Texas School Gets Legal

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Feb 29, 2024

A judge in Texas will hear a case about whether a school district can continue to keep a Black teen from attending classes because of his hairstyle. The judge will also hear if this school district violated the CROWN Act.

Since August 31, 2023, Darryl George has been suspended from Barbers Hill High School after allegedly violating the school district’s dress code. George has not been able to attend classes and instead has attended in-school suspension and other alternative school programs.

Black Teen Suspended from School Because of Hair

George has twisted dreadlocks that he wears wrapped around the back of his head, where they are secured. George and his family have said that he wears his hair in this way as an “outward expression of his Black identity and culture.”

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However, the Barbers Hill Independent School District has said his hairstyle violates their dress code. This school district is located in Mont Belvieu, which lies about 30 miles outside of Houston.

Barbers Hill High School Dress Code

According to the school district, the high school has a mandatory dress code that must be followed. If students do not follow this dress code, they can face consequences such as suspension.

Three young men sit and face a teacher at the front of a classroom.

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Their dress and grooming code states that male students’ hair cannot extend “below the eyebrows or below the ear lobes. 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.”

Judge to Hear about Dress Code Violation

As George hasn’t been able to attend his normal classes since August of 2023, the start of the school year, his family has filed suit against the school district. According to George’s family and their attorney, his hairstyle does not violate the school district’s policy.

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The school district has said that George must change or cut his hair to align with the policy in order to return to school. However, George refuses to change his dreadlocks.

The Failure to Enforce the CROWN Act

George’s family and attorney have also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit. They allege that the school district has failed to adhere to a new law that outlaws any discrimination on hairstyles.

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Texas’ CROWN Act was put in place to stop discrimination based on hair. It went into effect only one day after George was suspended because of his dreadlocks.

What Is the CROWN Act?

Texas became the 21st state that successfully banned race-based hair discrimination when it passed the CROWN Act. The CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act prohibits schools and workplaces from discriminating against certain hairstyles.

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Specifically, the CROWN Act ensures that hair textures and styles culturally or historically associated with race are not discriminated against. This means that hairstyles such as locs, knots, twists, and braids are protected under the CROWN Act.


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Has Not Enforced the Law

George’s lawsuit also claims that Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have failed to uphold the CROWN Act — and therefore have not enforced the law.

An exterior shot of the Texas State Capitol in the daytime underneath a clear blue sky.

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Many civil rights organizations have echoed George’s family’s assessment and have called for Texas education agencies to properly enforce the CROWN Act. Abbott signed this act into law on September 1, 2023.


School District Denies Discrimination

The Texas school district that has suspended George, however, has denied any claims of discrimination. They’ve also said that they haven’t violated the CROWN Act, as the law doesn’t say anything about hair length.

A row of orange-red lockers in a high school hallway.

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According to George’s high school, he’s been suspended and cannot attend regular classes because of his hair length, not because of his hairstyle.


CROWN Act Lawmakers Fight Back

While the school district is saying that they have not violated the CROWN Act, the lawmakers who co-wrote the act say their law was supposed to protect hairstyles such as George’s.

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“We passed this bipartisan bill from a lot of effort and a lot of testimony,” Texas Rep. Ron Reynolds said. “Barbers Hill knows that it’s violating the CROWN Act. This bill was passed specifically to cover the hairstyle Darryl George is wearing.”


Schools Find Loopholes

Since the CROWN Act became law in Texas, many have worried that schools and workplaces would easily find loopholes to continue to discriminate against people based on hair. Reynolds agrees with this assessment.

A close-up of a young person’s braid hairstyle, with green grass in the background.

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“They know they’re in violation of the CROWN Act, and they are simply being defiant by trying to find a loophole because the bill didn’t mention length when the spirit and the intent of the bill was to protect those very hairstyles that they are discriminating against,” Reynolds said.


Barber Hills School District Has a History of Controversial Hair Policies

The Barber Hills School District has been accused of discriminating based on hair in the past few years alone. In 2020, two students were suspended because of the length of their dreadlocks. Both students filed lawsuits against the school district.

The back of a yellow school bus during the daytime underneath a blue sky.

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DeAndre Arnold was one of these students, and he gained public attention around the country after he was told he wouldn’t walk at graduation.


George Refuses to Back Down

George has found himself in multiple headlines because he refuses to change his hairstyle. He has earned ample support from people all around the country. This support has made him stay strong and continue the fight against what he believes is wrong.

A man’s dreadlocks hairstyle, amid a white background.

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When asked about what this support means, he said, “I just want them to know that I hear them and appreciate everything and I’ma keep fighting. This fight has been a struggle on me, but with their words, it keeps me pushing.”