Black Student Suspended Twice Over Hairstyle; School Denies Discrimination

Initial Suspension Over Hairstyle

  • Darryl George, a Black high school student attending Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas, faced a suspension over his hairstyle. School officials claimed that his dreadlocks violated the district’s dress code as they fell below his eyebrows and ear lobes.
  • This incident happened in the same week that Texas outlawed racial discrimination based on hairstyles. George served his initial suspension last week, which was met with distress.

Immediate Second Suspension

  • Shockingly, upon returning to school on Monday, George wore his hair in the same twisted dreadlocks tied on top of his head as before. As a result, he received the same punishment, landing back in in-school suspension.
  • The second suspension left George in tears and discomfort, as he had to spend eight hours daily sitting on a stool in a cubicle.

The CROWN Act and Its Significance

  • The incident is a test of the newly enacted CROWN Act in Texas, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.” This law aims to prohibit racial discrimination based on hairstyles, including Afros, braids, dreadlocks, twists, or Bantu knots.
  • Texas is one of 24 states that have implemented the CROWN Act, intending to eliminate hair discrimination in schools and workplaces.

Cultural and Religious Significance of Dreadlocks

  • George’s family, like many others, views dreadlocks as having cultural and religious importance. In their culture, this hairstyle is deeply rooted and symbolizes a connection to wisdom and heritage.
  • Historically, hairstyles, including dreadlocks, have carried significance in African societies, serving as means of communication and identity.

History of Hair Discrimination

  • Hair discrimination has a long history, dating back to a time when Black people faced social and professional stigma for not conforming to white, European beauty standards.
  • In 2018, a similar incident involving a Black high school wrestler in New Jersey led to the state’s enactment of the CROWN Act.

School’s Dress Code Policy

  • Barbers Hill Independent School District enforces a dress code that prohibits male students from having hair extending below the eyebrows, ear lobes, or the top of a t-shirt collar. The policy also emphasizes clean, well-groomed hair without unnatural colors or variations.
  • While other nearby districts have less stringent policies, Barbers Hill prides itself on its strict standards and high expectations, which are believed to contribute to academic success.

Legal Battle and Arguments

  • Legal representatives argue that George’s suspension does not align with the CROWN Act, as length is considered an integral part of a hairstyle, which the law protects.
  • The family and their attorney remain determined to fight against what they perceive as prejudice against Black hairstyles and culture.

National and Youth Solidarity

  • George’s situation has sparked solidarity among young Black individuals nationwide, who have also experienced discriminatory dress codes and comments about their hair.
  • The incident underscores the broader issue of racial hair discrimination in schools and workplaces and the importance of legislation like the CROWN Act.

Impact on George’s Education

  • George’s repeated suspension has taken a toll on his education, resulting in falling grades and the inability to participate in extracurricular activities, such as football.
  • This setback has implications for his graduation timeline and necessitates extra effort to catch up.

Moving Forward

  • The family intends to schedule a meeting with the school principal to address the situation and advocate for their right to maintain their cultural and religious hairstyle.

This sequence of incidents highlights the ongoing struggle against racial hair discrimination, the significance of the CROWN Act, and the cultural importance of hairstyles like dreadlocks to Black communities.

Also read: New York City Schools Face Multiple Challenges Ahead of Back-to-School Season

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