The George family has entered the national spotlight after filing a civil rights lawsuit against top Texas officials. The suit targets Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, stemming from an ongoing suspension of 17-year-old Darryl George from Barbers Hill High School over his hairstyle.
A Dreadlocked Student vs School Dress Code
Darryl George, currently a junior at the Houston-area high school, has been subject to in-school suspension since August 31st. The administration justifies his suspension by asserting that George’s dreadlocks fall below his eyebrows and earlobes, thereby contravening the school district’s dress code.
Darresha George, Darryl’s mother, along with their legal counsel, refutes the claim that her son’s hairstyle violates any dress code. They maintain that his dreadlocks are neatly fashioned atop his head.
The lawsuit accuses the Governor and the Attorney General of neglecting to uphold the CROWN Act. This recently enacted Texas law explicitly prohibits racial discrimination related to hairstyles. Supporters of George argue that the continuous suspension by the Barbers Hill Independent School District is in direct violation of this law.
Why Hair Discrimination?
The family’s lawsuit posits that Abbott and Paxton have faltered in their obligations to protect George’s constitutional rights. These include safeguarding him against discrimination and securing his freedom of speech and expression. The suit argues that the school district’s purportedly “neutral” grooming policy disproportionately affects Black males and bears no direct relation to educational or safety considerations.
This legal confrontation escalated when George’s mother filed a formal complaint with the Texas Education Agency. The complaint alleges that the school district is harassing her son, resulting in Darresha George’s hospitalization due to panic and anxiety attacks.
In response, the school district filed a lawsuit in state court, seeking judicial interpretation on whether its grooming policies violate the CROWN Act. The district remains firm in its stance, arguing that its dress code policies are both legal and educational.
Unpacking the CROWN Act: What It Means
CROWN, an acronym for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” seeks to end race-based hair discrimination. It prevents employers and educational institutions from penalizing individuals due to their hair texture or protective styles. Texas is among 24 states that have adopted versions of this groundbreaking legislation.
This isn’t the first time Barbers Hill High School has grappled with accusations of hair discrimination. Previous incidents have involved two other Black male students who were told to cut their dreadlocks. These cases spurred lawmakers to enact the CROWN Act in Texas.
As legal battles and societal discussions on the topic unfold, the case of Darryl George stands as a potent symbol of the struggle against racial and cultural discrimination in the educational system. While waiting for a legal resolution, the story remains an unsettling reminder of the challenges still facing us in the quest for equality.
By taking this issue to the courts, the George family has not only initiated a potential change in the Barbers Hill High School district but has also added fuel to the broader national debate on racial equality and the nuances of discrimination.