May 24, 2024
George has not returned to his normal classes since Aug. 31 because the district claims the length of his hair violates its dress code.
A federal judge is waiting to rule on a lawsuit filed by a Black Texas high school student suing for racial and gender discrimination after refusing to change his hairstyle.
The suit’s fate is in the hands of U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown, who heard legal arguments on May 23 over whether to dismiss the suit presented by Darryl George, 18, and his mother, Darresha. The mother and son filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in 2023 after George made headlines for being punished over the length of his dreadlocks. 
George has not returned to his normal classes at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu since Aug. 31 because the district, Barbers Hill Independent School District, claims the length of his hair violates the dress code. The school district, the district superintendent, the principal, and the assistant principal, as well as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, are all named as defendants in the suit. 
The district argued that George’s hair, which he typically wears twisted on top of his head, violates policy because if taken down, it would fall below his shirt collar, eyebrows, or earlobes. The district has said other students with locs comply with the length policy. George and his mother are accusing those named in the filing as failing to stop racial and gender discrimination against the student while being punished. 
While waiting for the official ruling, Darresha said she was just happy that her son’s day in court had arrived. “I’m just happy that we’re here. We finally made it here,” George said. “ This is another stepping stone we have to cross. It’s been a long road, and we will just be in this fight.” 
The suit accuses the parties involved of numerous violations, including free speech and the CROWN Act. Since the junior student has spent most of the school year in in-school suspension at an off-site disciplinary program, the suit alleges George’s First Amendment rights to free speech and expression are being violated. 
His punishment is also claimed to violate the CROWN Act, a state law that took effect in September and prohibits race-based hair discrimination. The law bans employers and schools from penalizing people because of hair texture or protective hairstyles, including Afros, braids, locs, twists, or Bantu knots.
However, the George’s lost a lawsuit in February 2024 after a judge ruled that the school district‘s dress and grooming policies didn’t violate the measure. State District Judge Chap Cain III ruled the district’s policy “does not prohibit nor does it discriminate against male students who wear braids, locs, or twists” because the law does not mention hair length.
Allie Booker, George’s attorney, and Judge Brown claim the district’s policy is discriminatory, alleging the school district makes religious exemptions for hair length but doesn’t follow CROWN Act provisions by not offering race-based protections. She also argues that there are no rules defined for girls. After Brown asked about any cases indicating, Booker said the case isn’t about hair length but about “acceptance for all in the same manner.” 
After the hearing, George didn’t make a statement, but his attorney said he was “a little sad” due to difficulty finding a summer job. “He’s just afraid that some of the people that don’t agree with this case will hold it against him as they have been,” Booker said.
There are several people in George’s corner, including the Congressional Black Caucus, who invited both him and his mother to Washington, D.C., for the State of the Union Address in March 2024. In a press release, Caucus Chair and Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) said there is “no sound justification for the way the Barbers Hill Independent School District is treating Darryl George.” 
The lead primary sponsor of The CROWN Act, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), called the in-school suspension “for this long, MONTHS, and over a civil rights dispute “atrocious.
The judge mentioned possibly dismissing Abbott and Paxton from the lawsuit and a few claims filed against the superintendent and school administrators. He said a final ruling would be issued at a later date.
Enter your Email Address below to get our fun-filled Newsletter!
© 2024 Black Enterprise. All Rights Reserved.