Beyond the Locs: Unraveling the knots of discrimination and the fight for justice in Texas schools

Photo Credit: AP News

In Houston, the family of Darryl George, a 17-year-old Black high school junior at Barbers Hill High School, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton. The lawsuit alleges a grave failure to enforce the CROWN Act, a new law outlawing discrimination based on hairstyles. Despite the law, George has been under in-school suspension since August 31 for his dreadlocks, which the school district asserts violate its dress code. His family and supporters vehemently refute this, asserting, as quoted by the Associated Press, that his “hair is neatly tied in twisted dreadlocks on top of his head.”

The issue transcends dress code violation allegations. Historically rooted in discrimination against Black individuals based on their skin color and hair, this case highlights systemic challenges Black individuals face regarding their natural hairstyles. Despite the CROWN Act’s intent to halt such prejudiced practices, enforcement remains a contentious issue.

In the aftermath of the initial encounter with George’s school, the family’s pursuit of justice has remained unyielding, recognizing the profound scar left on a young Black child discriminated against because of his natural hairstyle. This incident, while appearing superficially as a matter of a dress code violation, raises questions of deeper, more systemic issues at play. Could this be merely the tip of the iceberg, a manifestation of underlying racial prejudice expressed as microaggressions? Such subtle forms of discrimination are unfortunately a reality, even within the perceived safety of educational institutions. The poignant plight of Darryl George, a young student caught in the crossfire of societal prejudice, underscores the urgency to confront and dismantle these subtle yet insidious forms of discrimination, ensuring every child’s right to education and personal expression remains unviolated and protected.

Highlighting the negligence in protecting George’s constitutional rights, the lawsuit maintains that the alleged neutral grooming policy, when applied, “disproportionately impacts Black males.” His family’s attorney, Allie Booker, states, as quoted by the Associated Press, 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.”

Despite the clear infringement on George’s rights as outlined by the CROWN Act, there has been no response from Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton, underlining the systemic issues at play.

This incident, regrettably, is not isolated. The Barbers Hill school district, as reported by the Associated Press, previously clashed with two other Black male students in 2020 over similar dress code allegations, leading to a federal judge ruling the district’s hair policy discriminatory. The George family’s legal actions join the wider fight against racial discrimination, reinforcing the right to express cultural and individual identity through natural hair without fear of prejudice.

As quoted by the Associated Press, State Rep. Rhetta Bowers emphasizes the law’s purpose in preventing such situations and calls for an immediate end to George’s suspension, stating, “The Texas CROWN Act was passed to prevent situations like this, and it is very disappointing to see Barbers Hill ISD attempt to find loopholes to skirt the law and perpetuate hair discrimination.”

Amidst these trying times, the George family stands resilient, contributing to the larger fight against racial discrimination, propelling societal progress towards equality, justice, and unyielding respect for individual rights and freedoms. The unfolding legal battle serves as a crucial testament to the ongoing struggle against racial discrimination, underscoring the necessity for not just enactment but vigorous enforcement of laws like the CROWN Act to ensure the protection of Black people, despite the color of their skin or hair texture.

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