Texas school did not violate CROWN Act by suspending Darryl George for hairstyle, judge rules

Texas school did not violate CROWN Act, judge rules

CHAMBERS COUNTY -  "It's my roots. It's how I feel closer to my people, how I feel closer to my ancestors," 18-year-old Darryl George shared ahead of a bench trial over his in-school suspension at Barbers Hill ISD. 

On Thursday, a Texas judge ruled in favor of the school district, saying the suspension over the length of George's locs is not in violation of the state's CROWN Act.

Barbers Hill ISD removed the Black 18-year-old student from regular classes Aug. 31, stating he was not complying with the dress code. The Texas CROWN Act, which prohibits race-based hair discrimination, went into effect just one day later.

"It's put a lot of emotions on me—anger, sadness, disappointment," George said. "It makes me very angry that throughout all these years, throughout all the fighting for the Black history that we've already done, we still have to do this again and again and again. It's ridiculous."  

Darryl George showing his locs hairstyle Sept. 10, 2023. Darresha George / AP

Darresha George filed a complaint on her son's behalf, maintaining BHISD violated the Texas CROWN Act. Superintendent Dr. Greg Poole had defended the district's actions, saying the CROWN Act does not mention length, specifically. BHISD filed the lawsuit to clarify whether the law is being violated. 

In a bench trial, Judge Chap Cain III sided with the district.

After the verdict, Dr. Poole shared his sentiments with CBS News Texas.

"The Texas legal system has 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," Dr. Poole said. "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."

Texas Legislative Black Caucus Rep. Jolanda Jones backed up the legislation and said the judge and the district have misinterpreted it. 

"I believe the CROWN Act is good because it was filed to protect kids who were being discriminated against in Barbers Hill ISD. The fact that the judge and Barbers Hill misinterpreted it—and I'm not even gonna say they even have a bad intent. You know what I'm gonna say? They don't have any cultural confidence and that's why they didn't understand it," she said. "Your hairstyle doesn't determine whether you can learn or not, but the whole point—his hair was pulled back; his hair was above his eyebrows. So it's not about that, right? Otherwise they would've made an exception for it."

Jones also pointed to her own experience with locks, saying 

In a written statement, Poole continued to say: "High expectations have helped make Barbers Hill ISD a state leader in all things and high standards at school benefit all ethnicities ... Falsely claiming racism is worse than racism and undermines efforts to address actions that violate constitutionally protected rights."

The George family's attorney says they will be asking a federal court for an injunction.

The family also has a federal civil rights lawsuit filed, which is still pending, against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton for not enforcing the law.

BHISD previously clashed with two other Black male students over the dress code.

District officials told cousins De'Andre Arnold and Kaden Bradford they had to cut their locs in 2020. The two students' families sued the school district in May 2020, and a federal judge later ruled the district's hair policy was discriminatory. Their case, which garnered national attention and remains pending, helped spur Texas lawmakers to pass the CROWN Act. Both students withdrew from the school, with Bradford returning after the judge's ruling. 

The national movement

While the Lone Star State joined 23 others in adopting its own legislation, the fight to pass federal legislation continues.

The CROWN Act, which stands for "Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair," is legislation that was created in 2019 by Adjoa Asamoah. She co-created the CROWN Coalition, along with Orlena Nwokah Blanchard, Esi Eggleston Bracey and Kelli Richardson Lawson.

Together, these women have been advocating for people with textured hair and hairstyles—whether it's an Afro, braids, twists, locs, bantu knots or a variety of curl types—to be able to exist in a space without discrimination.  

Asmoah is also the "Senior Advisor for Racial Equity" to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary.

She reacted to Thursday's verdict, telling CBS News Texas, "Those who violate laws enacted to make it illegal to discriminate must ultimately be held accountable."

She continued to say:

"What has been happening to Darryl George is wrong, on multiple levels, and there should be collective outrage - including from those same people who profess to be believers of individual rights. What we have seen, including throughout history, is these people will use a PROXY for race without hesitation. These alleged race neutral policies disproportionately impact Black people! In this particular case, from the photos I've seen, it's seemingly impossible to determine the "length" of his hair-as styled. As such, the decision is quite literally unfathomable."

The CROWN Act champion vowed to continue educating people on what the legislation is and fight for those it's been created for. 

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