Black student is suspended twice for his hairstyle

September 19, 2023
17-year-old, Darryl George suspended twice for his hairstyle.
17-year-old, Darryl George suspended twice for his hairstyle.


After serving an in-school suspension over his hairstyle, a black high-school student in Texas immediately received the same punishment when he arrived at school yesterday wearing his hair as before in twisted dreadlocks tied on top of his head, his mother said.

Darryl George, a junior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, was initially suspended the same week his state outlawed racial discrimination based on hairstyles. School officials said his dreadlocks violated the district's dress code because his hair fell below his eyebrows and earlobes.

George, 17, served the first suspension last week at the Houston-area school. He was in tears when he was sent back to in-school suspension yesterday, his mother, Darresha George, said.

"He has to sit on a stool for eight hours in a cubicle. That's very uncomfortable. Every day he'd come home, he'd say his back hurts because he has to sit on a stool," she said.

The incident recalls debates over hair discrimination in schools and the workplace, and is already testing the state's newly enacted CROWN Act, which took effect September 1.

The law, 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 penalising 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 CROWN Act.

A federal version of the CROWN Act passed in the House of Representatives last year, but was not successful in the Senate.

For black people, hairstyles are more than just a fashion statement. Hair has always played an important role across the black diaspora, said Candice Matthews, national minister of politics for the New Black Panther Nation. (Her group is not affiliated with another New Black Panther organisation widely considered anti-semitic.)

"Dreadlocks are perceived as a connection to wisdom," Matthews said. "This is not a fad, and this is not about getting attention. Hair is our connection to our soul, our heritage, and our connection to God."

In George's family, all the men have dreadlocks, going back generations. To them, the hairstyle has cultural and religious importance, his mother said.

"Our hair is where our strength is, that's our roots," Darresha George said. "He has his ancestors locked into his hair, and he knows that."

Historians say braids and other hairstyles served as methods of communication across African societies, including to identify tribal affiliation or marriage status, and as clues to safety and freedom for those who were captured and enslaved.

After slavery was abolished, black American hair became political. Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex and national origin, black people continued to face professional and social stigma for not adopting grooming habits that fit white European beauty standards and norms.

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