A Black high school student in Texas serving an in-school suspension over his locked hair for well over a month will now be removed from school and sent to a disciplinary alternative education program.
Darryl George, an 18-year-old junior at Barbers Hill High School, will be sent to an alternative school program, known as EPIC from October 12 through November 29 for “failure to comply” with multiple campus and classroom regulations, including a “violation of the dress and grooming policy,” the school’s principal Lance Murphy told George and his family Wednesday according to The Associated Press.
Murphy informed the teen and his family of the decision in a signed letter. George will return to his usual classroom on November 30. His family cannot challenge the decision because the alternate school referral is not more than 60 days, according to the Texas Education Code referenced in the letter.
George has been suspended since August 31 as ESSENCE previously reported, when school officials claimed the length of his locs violated the district’s dress and grooming code. Although the district’s policy does not explicitly prohibit locs or braids, it stipulates that male students’ hair cannot “be gathered or worn in a style that would allow the hair to extend below the top of a t-shirt collar, below the eyebrows, or below the ear lobes when let down.”
The family and their attorney, Allie Booker, have contested the school’s assertion that George’s hairstyle violates the district’s policy. They filed a formal complaint with the Texas Education Agency and a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state’s governor and attorney general, alleging a failure to enforce a new law that bans discrimination based on hairstyles.
The lawsuit argues that George’s ongoing suspension violates Texas’ CROWN Act, a law that prohibits discrimination based on hair texture or protective hairstyles associated with race. This law went into effect on September 1, 2022, one day after George was suspended. The lawsuit also accuses Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton of failing to enforce the CROWN Act, thus allowing the school district to violate the law and infringe on George’s constitutional and state rights.
The Barbers Hill Independent School District attempted to have the case sent back to state court by arguing that no federal claims were raised in the lawsuit filed by George’s family. However, this motion was denied by Judge George C. Hanks Jr. of the U.S. District Court in Houston because it did not adhere to court procedures.
Barbers Hill High School has faced similar controversies recently regarding its hair policies. Two other Black male students, De’Andre Arnold and Kaden Bradford, were told to cut their locs in 2020, resulting in a legal battle. A federal judge eventually ruled that the district’s hair policy was discriminatory. This case played a role in the passage of Texas’ CROWN Act, and while Arnold withdrew from the school, Bradford returned after the judge’s ruling.