A Black student was suspended for his hairstyle. Now, his family is suing Texas officials.

The family of Darryl George, a Black high school student in Texas, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Saturday against Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton over George’s ongoing suspension by his school district for his hairstyle.

George, 17, a junior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, has been serving an in-school suspension since Aug. 31 at the Houston-area school. School officials say his dreadlocks fall below his eyebrows and ear lobes and violate the district’s dress code.

Education Hair Discrimination
In this photo provided by Darresha George, her son Darryl George, 17, a junior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas, sits for a photo showing his locs, at the family’s home.DARRESHA GEORGE VIA AP

George’s mother, Darresha George, and the family’s attorney deny the teenager’s hairstyle violates the dress code, saying his hair is neatly tied in twisted dreadlocks on top of his head.

The lawsuit accuses Abbott and Paxton of failing to enforce the CROWN Act, a new state law outlawing racial discrimination based on hairstyles. Darryl George’s supporters allege the ongoing suspension by the Barbers Hill Independent School District violates the law, which took effect Sept. 1.

How can there be racial discrimination based on hairstyles?

The lawsuit alleges Abbott and Paxton, in their official duties, have failed to protect Darryl George’s constitutional rights against discrimination and against violations of his freedom of speech and expression. Darryl George “should be permitted to wear his hair in the manner in which he wears it … because the so-called neutral grooming policy has no close association with learning or safety and when applied, disproportionately impacts Black males,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed in Houston federal court by Darryl George’s mother, is the latest legal action taken related to the suspension.

On Tuesday, Darresha George and her attorney filed a formal complaint with the Texas Education Agency, alleging Darryl George is being harassed and mistreated by school district officials over his hair and that his in-school suspension is in violation of the CROWN Act.

They allege that during his suspension, Darryl George is forced to sit for eight hours on a stool and that he’s being denied the hot free lunch he’s qualified to receive. The agency is investigating the complaint.

Darresha George said she was recently hospitalized after a series of panic and anxiety attacks brought on from stress related to her son’s suspension.

On Wednesday, the school district filed its own lawsuit in state court asking a judge to clarify whether its dress code restrictions limiting student hair length for boys violates the CROWN Act.

Barbers Hill Superintendent Greg Poole has said he believes the dress code is legal and that it teaches students to conform as a sacrifice benefiting everyone.

The school district said it would not enhance the current punishment against Darryl George while it waits for a ruling on its lawsuit.

What is the CROWN Act?

The CROWN Act, an acronym for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” is intended to prohibit race-based hair discrimination and bars employers and schools from penalizing people because of hair texture or protective hairstyles including Afros, braids, dreadlocks, twists or Bantu knots. Texas is one of 24 states that have enacted a version of the act.

A federal version of it passed in the U.S. House last year, but was not successful in the Senate.

Darryl George’s school previously clashed with two other Black male students over the dress code.

Barbers Hill officials told cousins De’Andre Arnold and Kaden Bradford they had to cut their dreadlocks 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 approve the state’s CROWN Act law. Both students initially withdrew from the school, with Bradford returning after the judge’s ruling.

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