(MONT BELVIEU, Texas) — A Black Texas high school student has been facing an in-school suspension (ISS) for weeks because school officials said that his dreadlocks violated their dress and grooming code.
Darryl George, a junior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, has been sitting on a small stool at school every school day since Aug. 31, back aching, as he receives his schoolwork online or through a classmate, according to his mother Darresha George.
“Every day my son comes home with tears in his eyes. He’s frustrated; he’s outraged, aggravated, and it’s breaking him down mentally, physically and emotionally,” Darresha George told ABC News. “I have to see him taking ibuprofen because his back hurts.”
Darryl George’s schoolwork and grades are being affected because he is not getting the benefit of complete instructions from his teachers to complete his assignments, according to his mother.
“He’s not in a class setting to where he’s sitting in front of the teacher explaining it to him like the other kids,” his mother said. “So, now he has to figure it out for himself.”
Texas enacted the CROWN Act on Sept. 1, making it unlawful to discriminate against “protective hairstyles” in schools, Allie Booker, Darresha George’s attorney, told ABC News.
“Any student dress or grooming policy adopted by a school district, including a student dress or grooming policy for any extracurricular activity, may not discriminate against a hair texture or protective hairstyle commonly or historically associated with race,” according to the CROWN Act. “‘Protective hairstyle’ includes braids, locks and twists.'”
The CROWN Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” was passed with a bipartisan vote in the Texas legislature and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott in May.
“Barbers Hill [High School] is showing their racism once again, showing their complete defiance of Texas law,” Dr. Candice Matthews, the Statewide Vice Chair of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats and a supporter of the George family, told ABC News. “You don’t have to like the law, but you have to follow it because, one, we do not tell white people how to wear their hair. So, you’re not going to disenfranchise our people and tell us how to wear our hair.”
The Barbers Hill Independent School District told ABC News that their dress and grooming code does not conflict with the CROWN Act.
“The Barbers Hill ISD Dress and Grooming Code permits protective hairstyles, but any hairstyle must be in conformity with the requirement that male students’ hair will not extend, at any time, below the eyebrows or below the ear lobes,” the school district told ABC News in a statement. “Further, 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.”
The school district is making an example out of Darryl George within a day of the CROWN Act’s being implemented simply to prove a point and express their disapproval of the law, Booker told ABC News.
“People do stuff like that, you know, whenever there’s a new law in place,” Booker said. “They try to thumb their nose at the law by breaking it and then arguing that a law doesn’t cover it. So that’s all they’re doing.”
Booker added that the family plans to file a discrimination lawsuit and an injunction to get him out of ISS if the school continues to punish him.
A federal version of the CROWN Act passed the House but was blocked by the Senate in 2022. Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), the lead sponsor of the bill, told ABC News that it is time to pass the federal CROWN Act to stop this type of discrimination from happening again.
“It’s sad to see that some people still believe protective Black hairstyles are ‘unprofessional,'” Coleman told ABC News in a statement. “It’s infuriating that school officials would impose those beliefs on the children in their charge, negatively impacting their learning. Texas has passed their version of the CROWN Act to end this practice and I hope to see Mr. George quickly return to regular classes.”
Darresha George told ABC News that the school district is trivializing her son’s dreadlocks by labeling them as a violation of the district’s dress code. His locks are a representation of his culture and spirituality, Darresha George said.
“It’s part of his roots, part of his ancestors,” his mother said. “At the ends of his hair, we have his dad’s hair, his stepdad’s hair, and his brother’s hair actually sewn into his locks. So, cutting that off is cutting them off from him.”