MOUNT BELVIEW, Texas — The family of a black Texas high school student who was suspended because of his dreadlocks filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Saturday against the state’s governor and attorney general, alleging they failed to enforce a new law prohibiting discrimination based on hairstyle.
Darryl George, 17, a student at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, has been serving an in-school suspension since August 31. Houston-area school officials say his dreadlocks fall below his eyebrows and earlobes and violate district rules. dress code.
George’s mother, Darresha George, and the family’s attorney deny that the teen’s hairstyle violates the dress code, saying his hair is tied neatly into twisted dreadlocks on the top of his head.
Supporters of Darryl George say the ongoing suspension by the Barbers Hill Independent School District violates the state’s CROWN Act, which took effect September 1.
The video above is about Barbers Hill ISD asking the court to clarify CROWN Act guidelines after suspending Darryl twice for his hairstyle.
The lawsuit also alleges that Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, in the performance of their official duties, failed to protect George’s constitutional rights against discrimination and against violations of his freedom of speech and of expression. George “should be allowed to wear his hair the way he wears it…because the so-called neutral grooming policy has no strong connection to training or safety and, when enforced, it disproportionately impacts black men,” Allie Booker, the family’s attorney, wrote in the lawsuit.
Spokespeople for Abbott and Paxton, both Republicans, did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment Saturday.
The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order to end George’s in-school suspension while the case is before the court.
“It’s time to take the fight to Barbers Hill ISD. We’re going to drop the hammer of accountability on racism,” said Candice Matthews, national policy minister for the New Black Panther Nation and spokesperson for the family of George. a statement on Saturday.
The lawsuit, filed in Houston federal court by George’s mother, is the latest legal action filed over the suspension.
On Tuesday, Darresha George and her attorney filed a formal complaint with the Texas Education Agency, alleging that Darryl George is being harassed and mistreated by school district officials because of his hair and that his in-school suspension violates the CROWN Act .
They allege that during his suspension, George is forced to sit for eight hours on a stool and is denied the free hot lunch for which he qualifies. The agency is investigating the complaint.
Darresha George said she was recently hospitalized after a series of panic attacks and anxiety brought on by the stress of her son’s suspension.
The school district filed its own lawsuit in state court Wednesday asking a judge to clarify whether dress code restrictions limiting the length of students’ hair for boys violate the CROWN Act.
Barbers Hill Superintendent Greg Poole said he believes the dress code is legal and teaches students to comply as a sacrifice that benefits everyone.
The school district said it will not increase the current sanction against Darryl George pending a decision on his trial.
The CROWN Act, an acronym for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” aims to ban race-based hair discrimination and prohibit employers and schools from penalizing people because of the texture of their hair or protective hairstyles, including afros, braids and dreadlocks. , twists or Bantu knots. Texas is one of 24 states that have adopted some version of the law.
A federal version passed the U.S. House of Representatives last year, but failed to make it through the Senate.
State Rep. Rhetta Bowers, author of Texas’ version of the CROWN Act, said Friday that George’s hairstyle was protected under the new law and she called on the Barbers Hill School District to end his suspension.
“The Texas CROWN Act was passed to prevent situations like this, and it is very disappointing to see Barbers Hill ISD attempting to find loopholes to circumvent the law and perpetuate hair discrimination,” Bowers said in a statement.
George’s school once clashed with two other black students over the dress code.
Barbers Hill officials told cousins De’Andre Arnold and Kaden Bradford had to cut their dreadlocks in 2020. The two students’ families sued the school district in May 2020, and a federal judge later ruled that the district’s hair policy was discriminatory. Their case, which attracted national attention and remains pending, helped prompt Texas lawmakers to approve the state’s CROWN Act. Both students withdrew from the school and Bradford returned after the judge’s ruling.