A Black high school student in Texas who had been suspended because of how he wears his hair was removed from his school on Wednesday and transferred to a disciplinary school program, according to a letter from the school district shared by the student’s family.
Darryl George, a high school junior, had previously received an in-school suspension on Aug. 31 from Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, roughly 30 miles east of Houston, because officials say his hair violated a district dress code mandating that a male student’s hair not “extend, at any time, below the eyebrows or below the earlobes.”
A letter dated Oct. 11 and addressed to Darryl’s mother, Darresha George, read in part: “Your child has engaged in chronic or repeated disciplinary infractions that violate the district’s previously communicated standards of student conduct.”
The letter listed multiple infractions, including disruption of the classroom, failure to comply with staff directives, tardy policy violations and violation of the district’s dress and grooming policy. All, except for the tardiness, are apparently connected to his hairstyle.
Darryl, who turned 18 last week, has locs, which he pins on his head in a barrel roll. His locs are an “expression of cultural pride,” according to a federal lawsuit filed last month by the family against state leaders and the school district.
When Darryl’s locs are not pinned up or pulled back, they fall below the length allowed by the school district. Ms. George has said school officials told her that his hair, even if pinned, still violated the dress code.
In the lawsuit, the Georges allege that Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders failed to enforce a new state law prohibiting schools and employers from discriminating against people with hairstyles “commonly or historically associated with race.”
The law, called the CROWN Act, went into effect a day after the school suspended Darryl.
David Bloom, a spokesman for the Barbers Hill Independent School District, told The New York Times last month that the school’s dress code was “not in conflict” with the new law.
The district could not be reached for comment on Wednesday evening.
Candice Matthews, a civil rights activist who is acting as a spokeswoman for the George family, said on Wednesday that the expulsion caught Darryl and his mother off guard, adding that both were “upset” as they prepared to report to the new school, called the Eagle Positive Intervention Center, on Thursday.
“The racism is being shown,” Ms. Matthews, who is also the vice chair of Texas Coalition of Black Democrats, said in a phone interview.
Ms. Matthews said that Darryl was concerned about attending the new school, which she said is designated for students with severe behavioral issues.
Darryl, on the other hand, she said, is being sent there because of his hair, adding that the family believed Darryl’s expulsion was also retaliation for filing the lawsuit last month.
The author of the CROWN Act, Rhetta Andrews Bowers, a Democrat in the state assembly, had last month criticized the school district for its dress and grooming code, saying that it was an “attempt to find loopholes to skirt the law and perpetuate hair discrimination.”