A Black high school student in Texas is being forced to attend an alternative school after facing in-school suspensions since the start of the school year for his hairstyle.
Darryl George, an 18-year-old student at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas, was first suspended on August 31 because administrators said his dreadlocks violated the student code of conduct. Under the rules of the school, male students’ hair cannot “extend, at any time, below the eyebrows or below the earlobes.” The policy also requires all hair to be clean and well-groomed, and not an unnatural color or variation, The Associated Press reported.
George typically pins his hair when he’s at school, which keeps his locs within the limits of the student code. However, school officials say the potential for his hair to extend further is enough to violate the rule.
George has refused to cut his hair, and his family has sought to fight against the policy, noting in a complaint to the state and a federal lawsuit that it violates a state law that prohibits employers and schools from discriminating against individuals because of hairstyles “commonly or historically associated with race.” That law, called the Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act, took effect on September 1, the day after his first suspension.
Because of his multiple suspensions due to his hairstyle, the school sent a letter to George’s mother, Darresha George, telling her that, starting this week, he would be removed from the school and sent to an alternative school instead.
“Your child has engaged in chronic or repeated disciplinary infractions that violate the district’s previously communicated standards of student conduct,” the letter to Darresha George said.
The infractions the school cited included tardiness, disruption of the classroom, failure to comply with directives from the staff and violations of the dress code/grooming policy. All of the infractions excluding the tardiness are apparently related to George’s hairstyle.
Unless the school is compelled to change its mind, George will have to spend the next month and a half at the alternative school, which is called EPIC. He cannot return to his regular school unless it is to specifically discuss with administrators his “conduct” prior to leaving.
Similar incidents of hair discrimination have been reported by students across the country. Black students are disciplined at a rate that’s four times higher than other racial or ethnic groups, and are more likely to be targeted for violating dress code or hair policies as a result, a 2021 analysis from Brookings found.
Allie Booker, attorney for the George family, told NPR that the decision to remove George from his school constituted “retaliation” against him. George doesn’t plan to cut his locs, which he says are an “expression of cultural pride,” according to the lawsuit.
Darresha George said the dreadlocks are an important part of her son’s identity. “It’s a part of who we are,” she said in an interview with local news media.
“I want them to change their policies. I want them to stop being discriminatory against Black and Brown kids,” she added.
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