A Texas high school has suspended a black student for hair that could reach his shoulders if he untied it, just days after the state outlawed discrimination against black hairstyles.
Darryl George, 17, was kicked out of class and told his dreadlocks broke the dress code at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu.
His mother Darresha insists the style abides by the school’s ban on hair that covers the eyebrows or earlobes because her son wears it tied up, and has dared the school to try sending him home again.
‘This has everything to do with the administration being prejudiced toward Black hairstyles, toward Black culture,’ she said.
‘My son is well-groomed, and his hair is not distracting from anyone’s education.’
Darryl George was banned from class and faces transfer to another school after staff at Barbers Hill High told him his hair is too long
Barbers Hill Independent School District Superintendent Greg Poole denied the policy is racist
The case looks set to become an early test for Texas’s new Crown Act which is designed to prevent school and work-based discrimination against ordinary black hairstyles.
Standing for ‘Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair’, the act took effect on September 1 as Texas became the 24th state to protect the right to wear Afros, braids, or dreadlocks.
The school where just three percent of students are black insists its rules apply to length and not style
The school district says its dress code is meant to ‘teach grooming and hygiene, instill discipline, prevent disruption, avoid safety hazards and teach respect for authority’.
‘When you are asked to conform and give up something for the betterment of the whole, there is a psychological benefit,’ said district superintendent Greg Poole.
‘We need more teaching (of) sacrifice.’
It comes three years after the school sparked fury by banning another black student from his graduation 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 suspended over his shoulder-length dreadlocks.
‘There is no dress code policy that prohibits any cornrow or any other method of wearing of the hair,’ Poole told the meeting.
‘Our policy limits the length. It’s been that way for 30 years.
‘People want to call us racist, but we’re following the rules, the law of the land.’
Deandre too insisted that he conformed to the policy with his hair tied up and one activist said his suspension was less about the dress code than ‘policing black boys’.
‘We’re here for Deandre, but it’s about more than that,’ his mother Sandy Arnold told CBS News at the time.
‘This is about all the other Deandres that could come through Barbers Hill.’
Mount Pleasant Public School in Michigan was sued for $1 million in 2021 when a teacher cut a seven-year-old biracial girl’s hair without her family’s permission.
‘She was so embarrassed because she had to go back to class like that,’ father Jimmy Hoffmeyer said.
‘I heard people say it’s only hair, but it’s not only hair to her. That was her image, that was her self-esteem.’
Darryl’s mother Darresha said her son’s hair complies with the school’s code which requires hair to be above the eyebrow and above the earlobe
In 2020 the school barred Deandre Arnold, 18, from his graduation because of his hair
Activists turned their backs on speakers defending the Texas high school’s long-hair policy
Darresha George said her son has been growing his dreadlocks for nearly 10 years and the family had never previously received complaints from the school.
‘I even had a discussion about the Crown Act with the principal and vice principal,’ she told AP.
‘They said the act does not cover the length of his hair.’
‘Our hair is where our strength is, that’s our roots.
‘He has his ancestors locked into his hair, and he knows that.
‘His grades are suffering, which also means he is not able to play football or participate in any extracurriculars.
‘He was on track to graduate early, and now he is falling behind and will have to work double time just so he can still graduate.
‘He will be up to dress code on Monday with his dreadlocks, which do not go past his eyebrows or ear lobes.’
The Texas Legislative Black Caucus has warned the school that its policy is in breach of the new law and demanded the violations to be removed from George’s school record.
Mount Pleasant Public Schools in Grand Rapids was sued for $1million in 2021 when first-grader Jurnee arrived home after a school librarian gave her a haircut without her family’s permission
But George risks being placed in an alternative school and his family is gearing up for a legal battle.
Their attorney Allie Booker said the school’s argument doesn’t hold up because length is considered part of a hairstyle, which is protected under the law.
‘We are going to continue to fight, because you can’t tell someone that hairstyles are protected and then be restrictive,’ she added.
‘If style is protected, then style is protected.’