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Published on June 20, 2024
Texas Judge Sets Trial to Examine Race-Based Hair Discrimination at Barbers Hill High School Amid CROWN Act DebateSource: Google Street View

The locks of contention at Barbers Hill High School have not only instigated a legal battle over an individual student's hairstyle but have also braided themselves into the broader discussion of racial discrimination and school policy enforcement. The case in question features Darryl George, who, due to his refusal to cut his hair, has found himself suspended from his usual classroom environment since August 31 last year and instead relegated to in-school suspension or an alternative disciplinary program.

It appears the tides may slowly start to shift, however, as a Texas judge has ordered a trial to indeed take place in the coming month. This development, as ABC13 reports, will evaluate whether George's locs—a natural hairstyle often worn by Black individuals—violate the CROWN Act, a Texas state law that prohibits race-based hair discrimination in schools and workplaces. Yet, on February 22, Judge Chap B. Cain III ruled the school district's policy did not infringe upon the new law, arguing the CROWN Act did not explicitly exempt the individuals with protective hairstyles from hair length restrictions.

Darryl George's battle is not new to Barbers Hill ISD, which has a documented record of hair policy disputes, including a 2020 lawsuit involving students Kaden Bradford and De’Andre Arnold. Their lawsuit brought forward allegations of racial discrimination—a claim that seems to echo in George's current situation. According to a Houston Chronicle article, a previous court found the district implemented the same hair-length policy with a racially discriminatory motive.

Amid this unfolding legal drama, George's attorney, Allie Booker, has been vocal about the discriminatory nature of the district's policy, pointing out how it fails to protect students based on race, despite allowing religious exemptions. "Injunctions must be taken up at the proper time period and if this occurs again, it will be proper for the court to take the matter up in an effort to prevent him from being put in ISS again (while the case is pending)," Booker told the Houston Chronicle.

As both sides prepare to untangle this policy knot in court, the question remains whether the district's adherence to its dress code is a justified stance for preserving what Superintendent Greg Poole terms "high standards" or an act that unjustly punishes students like George for their natural hair. Poole's stance, as communicated through a paid ad that highlighted that "being an American requires conformity," sparks further discourse on the conflation of appearance with academic excellence and behavior. Meanwhile, supporters of the CROWN Act, including Texas state Reps. Rhetta Bowers and Ron Reynolds, maintain that the state law does indeed protect styles like George's locs and that the district's actions constitute punishment for harmless personal expression.

With the appeal against the district's dress code now docketed before the 1st Court of Appeals in Houston, George and his counsel are poised on a precipice that not only challenges an individual school district policy but also potentially reiterates or rejects the legislative intent of the CROWN Act. The George family's legal skirmish may soon establish a critical precedent for how race-based discrimination in dress and grooming codes is interpreted and enforced in Texas schools..