By Stacy M. Brown
Darryl George, an 18-year-old junior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas, remains suspended from school, and now officials have transferred him to a disciplinary alternative education program, sparking controversy over alleged violations of the school’s dress code policy.
George, suspended since Aug. 31, will be forced to enroll in the EPIC alternative program from Oct. 12 through Nov. 29, according to a letter from Principal Lance Murphy. George’s family shared the letter with news reporters. The suspension and subsequent disciplinary action were attributed to George’s “failure to comply” with multiple campus and classroom regulations outlined in the school’s student conduct standards.
The crux of the issue revolves around the school district’s policy regarding male students’ hair length. The Barbers Hill Independent School District’s student handbook stipulates that male students are prohibited from having hair extending below the eyebrows, ear lobes, or the top of a T-shirt collar. Additionally, the policy mandates that all student’s hair must be clean, well-groomed, geometrical, and not an unnatural color or variation. Notably, the school does not have a uniform requirement.
George’s mother, Darresha George, and the family’s legal representative contend that the teenager’s hairstyle complies with the dress code. In response to the disciplinary action, they have lodged a formal complaint with the Texas Education Agency and filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state’s governor and attorney general. Their argument hinges on an alleged violation of the state’s CROWN Act, which became law on Sept. 1. The law, an acronym for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” is designed to prevent race-based hair discrimination and bars institutions from penalizing individuals due to their hair texture or protective hairstyles, such as afros, braids, dreadlocks, twists, or Bantu knots.
While the U.S. House of Representatives passed a federal version of the CROWN Act a year ago, the U.S. Senate resisted. The school district, in response, has taken the matter to the courts, filing a lawsuit in state district court to seek clarification on whether its dress code restrictions infringe on the CROWN Act.
This incident is not the first time Barbers Hill High School has grappled with controversy surrounding its dress code policy. In 2020, the school was embroiled in a legal battle with De’Andre Arnold and Kaden Bradford, two other Black male students, who were told to cut their dreadlocks. The families of Arnold and Bradford filed a lawsuit against the district, leading to a federal judge ruling that the school’s hair policy was discriminatory. This pivotal decision played a role in the approval of Texas’ CROWN Act.
George is set to return to regular classroom instruction on Nov. 30 but will not be permitted to re-enter the high school campus until that date, unless it is to discuss his conduct with school administrators.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump took to Instagram to express his outrage, posting a photo of George’s hairstyle.
“This is absurd,” Crump wrote. “A Black [high school student Darryl George received a week-plus suspension over his loc hairstyle — just days AFTER Texas’ CROWN Act went into effect! That law bans discrimination based on a student’s hair texture or protective hairstyle, including locs and braids.”