Texas judge insists school was right in punishing boy for declining to change his hairstyle

Stephen Nartey February 23, 2024
The dispute with Barbers Hill Independent School District revolves around the school's dress code policy, which the George family argues violates the state's CROWN Act. Photo: KPRC/YouTube

A judge has ruled that a punishment handed out to a black high school student, Darryl George, for declining to change his hairstyle does not contravene the state’s new law barring race-based hair discrimination.

The 18-year-old boy has absented himself from his regular Houston-area high school classes since August 31 because the district, Barbers Hill, maintains that George’s hair length violates its dress code.

In the lawsuit filed by the district, it argued that George’s long hair, styled in tied and twisted locs atop his head, violates the school’s policy as it would extend beyond specified lengths when let down. The district added that other students with locs adhere to the length policy.

Following approximately three hours of testimony, Judge Chap Cain III ruled in favor of the school district, stating that its policy isn’t discriminatory as the CROWN Act doesn’t explicitly permit exemptions for protected hairstyles, such as locs.

The judge further emphasized the courts must refrain from altering the terms of the legislation, according to the Associated Press.

“Judges should not legislate from the bench and I am not about to start today,” Cain said.

The CROWN Act, which was implemented in September, aims to combat race-based hair discrimination, safeguarding individuals from penalties due to hair texture or protective hairstyles like Afros, braids, locs, twists, or Bantu knots.

Despite the ruling against George, the judge advised him to seek resolution through avenues such as the state Legislature or school board.

George’s family has taken further action by lodging a formal complaint with the Texas Education Agency and initiating a federal civil rights lawsuit against Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and the school district.

They allege a failure on the part of the authorities to enforce the CROWN Act. The lawsuit is currently being heard by a federal judge in Galveston.

Allie Booker, George’s attorney, said she intends to pursue an injunction in the federal lawsuit to halt George’s punishment, in addition to appealing Thursday’s decision.

Throughout much of the school year, George, a junior, has been either serving an in-school suspension at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu or attending an off-site disciplinary program.

“The Texas legal system has validated our position that the district’s dress code does not violate the CROWN Act and that the CROWN Act does not give students unlimited self-expression,” Barbers Hill Superintendent Greg Poole said in a statement.

During the trial, the district chose not to present witnesses but submitted evidence, including an affidavit from the superintendent, supporting the dress code policy.

District attorneys contended that the policy doesn’t breach the CROWN Act as the law doesn’t address hair length.

George and his mother, Darresha George, before the trial, were very hopeful. George argued that wearing the locs was “how I feel closer to my people. It’s how I feel closer to my ancestors. It’s just me. It’s how I am.”

Following the ruling, George and his mother were visibly emotional, shedding tears and opting not to engage with reporters.

Candice Matthews, a spokesperson for George’s family, recounted how the 18-year-old expressed his frustration and disbelief, questioning whether his education was being impeded solely because of his hairstyle: “All because of my hair? I can’t get my education because of my hair?”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: February 23, 2024


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