A Texas high school has suspended a black student for having hair that could reach his shoulders if he broke it – just days after the state banned discrimination against black hairstyles.
Darryl George, 17, was kicked out of class and said his dreadlocks violated the dress code at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu.
His mother Darresha insists the style adheres to the school’s ban on wearing hair that covers the eyebrows or earlobes because her son wears it tied up, and has challenged the school to send him home again.
“It has everything to do with the government being prejudiced against black hairstyles and against black culture,” she said.
“My son is well-groomed and his hair does not distract from his education.”
Darryl George has been suspended and will have to be transferred to another school after staff at Barbers Hill High told him his hair was too long
Greg Poole, superintendent of the Barbers Hill Independent School District, denied that the policy was racist
The case is likely to be an initial test of Texas’ new Crown Act, which aims to prevent discrimination against common black hairstyles in school and the workplace.
The law stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” and went into effect on September 1, when Texas became the 24th state to protect the right to wear afro hairstyles, braids or dreadlocks.
The school, where only three percent of students are black, insists its rules apply to length, not style
The school district says its dress code is intended to “teach grooming and hygiene, instill discipline, prevent disruption, avoid safety hazards and teach respect for authority.”
“When you’re asked to adapt and give up something to make things better, there’s a psychological benefit to it,” said District Executive Greg Poole.
“We need more victim teaching.”
Three years after the school caused outrage when it banned another black student from graduating because of his hair.
Activists from Black Lives Matter Houston and the United Urban Alumni Association filled a school board meeting after DeAndre Arnold was hanged above his shoulder-length dreadlocks.
“There is no dress code that prohibits cornrows or any other way of wearing your hair,” Poole said at the meeting.
“Our policy limits the length. It’s been like this for 30 years.
“People want to call us racist, but we play by the rules, the law of the land.”
Deandre also insisted he was in compliance with his hair tied back, and one activist said his suspension was less about the dress code and more about “policing black boys.”
“We’re here because of Deandre, but it’s about more than that,” his mother, Sandy Arnold, told CBS News at the time.
“This is about any other Deandres that might come through Barbers Hill.”
Mount Pleasant Public School in Michigan was sued for $1 million in 2021 when a teacher cut the hair of a seven-year-old biracial girl without her family’s permission.
“She was so embarrassed because she had to go back to class like that,” said father Jimmy Hoffmeyer.
“I’ve heard people say it’s just hair, but to them it’s not just hair. ‘That was her image, that was her self-esteem.’
Darryl’s mother, Darresha, said her son’s hair complied with school regulations, which require hair to be above the eyebrow and above the earlobe
In 2020, the school barred 18-year-old Deandre Arnold from graduating because of his hair
Activists turned away from speakers who defended the Texas high school’s long hair policy
Darresha George said her son has been growing dreadlocks for almost a decade and the family has never received any complaints from the school before.
“I even spoke to the principal and deputy principal about the Crown Act,” she told the AP.
“They said the act didn’t involve the length of his hair.”
“Our hair is our strength, it’s our roots.”
“He has his ancestors captured in his hair, and he knows it.”
“His grades are poor, which also means he cannot play football or participate in extracurricular activities.”
“He was on track to graduate early and now he’s falling behind and having to work double time just so he can graduate.”
“He will be in compliance with the dress code on Monday with his dreadlocks not extending beyond his eyebrows or earlobes.”
The Texas Legislative Black Caucus has warned the school that its policies violate the new law and is demanding that the violations be removed from George’s school records.
Mount Pleasant Public Schools in Grand Rapids was sued for $1 million in 2021 when first-grader Jurnee came home after a school librarian gave her a haircut without her family’s permission
But George is at risk of being sent to an alternative school, and his family is preparing for a legal battle.
Her attorney, Allie Booker, said the school’s argument doesn’t hold water because the length is considered part of a hairstyle that is protected by law.
“We will continue to fight because you cannot tell someone that hairstyles are protected and then act restrictively,” she added.
“If style is protected, then style is protected.”