The lawsuit claims that Texas state officials failed to enforce recently-enacted legislation prohibiting hairstyle-related discrimination.
The family of Darryl George, a Black high school student who was suspended from a Mount Belvieu school over a “locs” hairstyle, has filed a lawsuit against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, both of whom attorneys say should have better enforced the Lone Star State’s anti-discrimination CROWN Act.
According to CNN, George, a 17-year-old senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mount Belvieu, was suspended for more than three weeks because educators said that his locs—which the student often wears in braids or a ponytail—violated the district’s dress code for male students.
While the dress code does not prohibit students from wearing locs or braids, it does place limits on the length of male students’ hair.
The policy, for instance, states that hair cannot be worn in a style that “would allow the hair to extend below the top of a t-shirt collar, below the eyebrows, or below the ear lobes when let down.”
However, the George family is now alleging in a federal lawsuit that Darryl’s suspension was, in effect, a violation of the Texas CROWN Act, a law that prohibits discrimination on the bases of hair texture and styles “commonly or historically associated with race.”
It also says that Texas’s controversial attorney general, Ken Paxton, failed to enforce the law, which took effect earlier this year.
CNN notes that the lawsuit was filed several days after Barbers Hill formally asked the state whether its dress code violated any provision of the CROWN Act.
“Although we believe the new law does not govern hair length, we are asking the judicial system of Texas to interpret,” Barbers Hill Superintendent Greg Poole said in a Wednesday statement.
“The district does not intend to enhance the current disciplinary action against the student for the ongoing violation of its grooming policy pending the court’s ruling on whether the district’s policy is legal,” the district added.
George’s family said that, before their child was suspended, they had been told that Darryl would be sent to a “Disciplinary Alternative Education Program,” or “alternative school,” if he continued to refuse to cut his car.
Somewhat intriguingly, the George family said that Darryl’s locs are intertwined with strands from his father and grandfather, and that they will not abide by the school’s request.
The New York Times reports that his is not the first time that Barber Hills has faced litigation over its purportedly discriminatory dress code.
In May of 2020, for instance, two cousins who attended another school in the same district—DeAndre Arnold, and Kaden Bradford—were both suspended for the length of their dreadlocks. Their families filed a separate claim, with the case still pending.