School punishment for Black student's hair is legal in CROWN Act lawsuit, judge rules

Darryl George, 18, has been banned from attending regular classes.

February 22, 2024, 1:47 PM

A judge ruled Thursday that the punishment faced by a Black high school student in Texas for refusing to change his hairstyle does not violate the state's CROWN Act, which prohibits race-based hair discrimination, according to ABC owned KTRK.

Darryl George, 18, has been banned from attending regular classes at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu by the school district. He has been directed to in-school suspension and an off-site disciplinary program since Aug. 31, 2023, according to his mother Darresha George.

The school claimed that the length of his dreadlocks violated their dress and grooming code. Darryl George's dreadlocks are braided and wrapped up on top of his head.

PHOTO: Darryl George has been facing in-school suspension since Aug. 31 because of his dreadlocks.
Darryl George has been facing in-school suspension since Aug. 31 because of his dreadlocks.
George Family Photo

The CROWN Act, which stands for "Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair," was passed with a bipartisan vote in the Texas legislature and signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last May.

"… being an American requires conformity with the positive benefit of unity, and being a part of something bigger than yourself," Greg Poole, the superintendent of Barbers Hill ISD, said through a full-page, paid ad in the Houston Chronicle on Jan. 14.

Poole told ABC News in a statement in January that Barbers Hill dress code was not in violation of the CROWN Act which Texas enacted last September.

"The CROWN Act was meant to allow braids, locs or twists, which the district has always allowed. The law was never intended to allow unlimited student expression," Poole said in a statement.

Candice Matthews, a local activist close to the family, criticized Poole for his stance.

"This is very dangerous and he [BHISD Superintendent Greg Poole] has no business having any type of oversight of children and their educational journey," Matthews told ABC News in part through a statement in January.

The school district told ABC News in a statement in September they filed the lawsuit through the judicial system of Texas to help them clarify the terms of the CROWN Act and whether the length of hair is a factor in the law.

"Any student dress or grooming policy adopted by a school district, including a student dress or grooming policy for any extracurricular activity, may not discriminate against a hair texture or protective hairstyle commonly or historically associated with race," according to the CROWN Act. "'Protective hairstyle' includes braids, locks and twists.'"

Darryl George's family filed a federal lawsuit in September against Abbott and the state's Attorney General Ken Paxton for allegedly not enforcing the state's CROWN Act.

The family alleges in the complaint that Darryl George has been subjected to "improper discipline and abrogation of both his Constitutional and state rights," as a result of the governor's and the AG's failure to provide equal protection and due process under the law for the plaintiffs; ensuring school districts and schools refrain from discrimination based on race and sex and from using the CROWN Act of Texas to cause outright race and discrimination, according to a copy of the lawsuit ABC News obtained.

Abbott and Paxton did not respond to ABC News' request for comment at the time of the lawsuit.

ABC News' Kiara Alfonseca contributed to this report.