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Black Student’s Suspension Over Hairstyle Didn’t Violate Law, Texas Judge Rules

U.S.Black Student’s Suspension Over Hairstyle Didn’t Violate Law, Texas Judge Rules

A Texas judge ruled on Thursday that a school district’s dress code, which it used to suspend a Black student last year for refusing to change the way he wears his hair, did not violate a state law meant to prohibit race-based discrimination against people based on their hairstyle.

The student, Darryl George, 18, has locs, or long ropelike strands of hair, that he pins on his head in a barrel roll, a protective style that his mother said reflected Black culture. Since the start of his junior year last August, he has faced a series of disciplinary actions at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, about 30 miles east of Houston, after refusing to cut his hair. He was separated from his classmates, given disciplinary notices, placed in in-school suspension and sent to an off-campus program.

The hearing on Thursday, in the 253rd Judicial District Court in Anahuac, was in response to a lawsuit filed in September by the Barbers Hill Independent School District. The lawsuit argued that Mr. George was “in violation of the District’s dress and grooming code” because he wears his hair “in braids and twists” at a length that extends “below the top of a T-shirt collar, below the eyebrows, and/or below the earlobes when let down.”

The district asked State District Judge Chap B. Cain III to clarify whether the dress code violated a state law called the Texas CROWN Act, as the defendants, Mr. George and his mother, Darresha George, assert. The act, which took effect on Sept. 1, says a school district policy “may not discriminate against a hair texture or protective hairstyle commonly or historically associated with race.” It does not specifically mention hair length.

“The CROWN Act does not render unlawful those portions of the Barbers Hill dress and grooming restrictions limiting male students’ hair length,” Judge Cain said.

“I am not going to tell you that this has been an easy decision to make,” the judge said. Addressing the family, he encouraged them to “go back to the Legislature or go back to the school board because the remedy you seek can be had from either of those bodies.”

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