Black Texas Student's Hairstyle Lawsuit Awaits Federal Judge's Ruling

Black Texas Student’s Hairstyle Lawsuit Awaits Federal Judge’s Ruling

After hearing arguments regarding whether to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a Black high school student who claims he was subjected to gender and racial discrimination during his months-long expulsion from his Texas school district for refusing to alter his hairstyle, a federal judge decided not to rule right away on Thursday.

Darryl George, 18, has not attended his usual high school classes in the Houston region since August 31 due to the Barbers Hill district’s claim that his hair length is inappropriate.

The district claims that George’s long hair, which he wears tied and coiled in locs atop his head, is against school regulation because, if it were allowed to fall down, it would cover his eyebrows, earlobes, and shirt collar.

In response to his punishment, Darryl George and his mother Darresha George filed a federal civil rights complaint against the Texas governor, attorney general Ken Paxton, the school system, the superintendent, and the principal and deputy principal.

The case claims that by continuing to punish George for his haircut, the defendants have participated in or failed to stop racial and gender discrimination against him.

“I’m just happy that we’re here. We finally made it here. This is another stepping stone we have to cross. It’s been a long road and we will just be in this fight,” Darresha George stated after Thursday’s court hearing.

According to the lawsuit, George’s punishment also contravenes the CROWN Act, a recent state statute that forbids discrimination based on race in hairstyles.

With effect from September, the CROWN Act prohibits employers and educational institutions from discriminating against individuals based on their hair texture or protective hairstyles such as Afros, braids, locs, twists, or Bantu knots.

George’s First Amendment rights to free speech and expression are allegedly being abused, according to the lawsuit. George, a junior, has either spent time in an off-site disciplinary program or been placed on in-school suspension at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu for the most of the academic year.

George’s lawyer, Allie Booker, informed U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown on Thursday that the district’s policy is racially biased and discriminatory.

Booker claimed that although the school system granted religious exemptions regarding hair length, it was not abiding with the CROWN Act as it was not providing safeguards based on race.

Booker further contended that the school system lacked explicit policies outlining why girls were permitted to have long hair while boys were not.

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Brown enquired as to whether there was any case law supporting the First Amendment’s protection of hair length as expressive conduct.

Booker stated that while she had not discovered any, George’s action is a precedent-setting case and that a person’s right to self-expression through their hairstyle does not necessarily have to be closely linked to their religious beliefs in order to be protected by the law.

“It’s not about the length of hair, it’s about acceptance for all in the same manner,” Booker stated.

The Barbers Hill school district’s lawyer, Jonathan Brush, informed Brown on multiple occasions that the district has a policy that is neutral toward race and that George’s lawsuit did not demonstrate a strong enough pattern of racial discrimination by the district.

According to Brush, the district’s hair length regulation would “pass muster” in the military and the workplace, and having varied rules on hair length for boys and females “does not constitute discrimination.”

Additionally, Brush stated that because the kid did not demonstrate how “his hairstyle communicates a message to the world,” George’s First Amendment rights were not being violated.

According to Brown, he was leaning toward dropping the lawsuits against Abbott and Paxton as well as some of the accusations made against the superintendent and other school officials. He promised that a final decision will be made later.

The school system filed a lawsuit, and in February, a state judge said that the sentence it received did not violate the CROWN Act.

Two more teenagers filed a federal complaint in May 2020 over Barbers Hill’s hair policy. After a federal judge granted a temporary injunction, one of the two students returned to the high school, citing “a substantial likelihood” that his rights to free speech and to be free from racial discrimination would be violated if he was denied access.

“He’s just afraid that some of the people that don’t agree with this case will hold it against him as they have been,” Booker stated.

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With more than two years of expertise in news and analysis, Eileen Stewart is a seasoned reporter. Eileen is a respected voice in this field, well-known for her sharp reporting and insightful analysis. Her writing covers a wide range of subjects, from politics to culture and more.