Texas judge rules school district can restrict length of male students’ natural hair - Darryl George related

Chandelis Duster, CNN | 2/22/2024, 2:47 p.m.
A Texas judge ruled Thursday that the state’s CROWN Act does not make it unlawful for school dress codes to …
Darryl George, an 18-year-old high school junior, stands outside a courthouse in Anahuac, Texas, on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. Mandatory Credit: Lekan Oyekanmi/AP via CNN Newsource

A Texas judge ruled Thursday that the state’s CROWN Act does not make it unlawful for school dress codes to limit a student’s hair length.

The decision is a blow to Darryl George, a Houston-area high school student who sued the Barbers Hill Independent School District after he was suspended for months over the length of his locs hairstyle.

The George family did not make an appearance after the trial, but attorneys for the family said they intend to appeal the ruling.

At a news conference outside the courthouse, Candice Matthews, a spokesperson for the family, said George had tears in his eyes as theyd left the courtroom.

She said the family is disappointed, angered and confused by the ruling.

“Darryl made this statement, and told me this straight up with tears in his eyes, ‘All because of my hair? I can’t get my education because of hair? I cannot be around other peers and enjoy my junior year, because of my hair?’”

Matthews said that George will continue to serve in-school suspension and that his attorneys plan to file for an injunction in an upcoming federal civil rights lawsuit.

Barbers Hill Independent School District Superintendent Greg Poole said the ruling “validated our position that the district’s dress code does not violate the CROWN Act and that the CROWN Act does not give students unlimited self-expression.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that affirmative action is a violation of the 14th Amendment and we believe the same reasoning will eventually be applied to the CROWN Act,” he said.

Poole previously told CNN “hair length of male students is only constitutionally protected for Native American students.”

The Texas CROWN Act, went into effect on September 1, 2023, and prohibits discrimination based on hairstyles that are commonly associated with a particular race or culture.

Texas state Rep. Ron Reynolds, a co-author of the CROWN Act who testified at the trial on George’s behalf, said he was disappointed by the outcome.

“We will not stop. We will continue to speak truth to power,” Reynolds said, adding that if George’s appeal is unsuccessful lawmakers will file new legislation that will include hair length.

“We know the purpose of the bill, the purpose of the legislation is to protect students like Darryl,” he said.

The Barbers Hill dress code allows students to wear locs hairstyles but places limits on the length of male students’ hair. It states “boy’s hair will not extend below the eyebrows, below the ear lobes, or below the top of a t-shirt collar.”

Last September, the school district filed a declaratory judgment lawsuit asking the court to decide if the “Barbers Hill Independent School District’s dress and grooming code policy, limiting student hair length does not violate the CROWN Act.”

George and his family have also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against school officials and Texas state leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, alleging they have failed to enforce the state law and have caused emotional distress.

Before the trial began, George told reporters that spending most of this academic year isolated and on in-school suspension has been “very lonely.”

“I started my dreads for a reason, and that’s just to feel close to my people … to feel my ancestors,” George said.

“It just makes me feel angry, very angry … that throughout all these years, throughout all the fighting for the Black History that we’ve done, that we still have to do this again, and again, and again. It’s ridiculous.”

His mother, Darresha, became emotional as she thanked supporters “for making us stand strong.”

In January, Poole placed a full page ad in the Houston Chronicle, arguing that “being an American requires conformity with the positive benefit of unity,” CNN previously reported.

“Barbers Hill ISD will continue to make decisions to protect and fight for the rights of its community to set the standards and expectations for our school district even if that path takes us to the U.S. Supreme Court,” he wrote in the ad.