Texas Teen Punished for Refusing To Cut Locs Days After State’s CROWN Act Went Into Effect

Four of the many natural hairstyles and textures wore by Black people.

On September 1, 2023, The CROWN Act, a.k.a the. Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act, went into effect in Texas. The bill, which Governor Greg Abbott signed into law in May, bans race-based hair discrimination in schools and workplaces. The CROWN Act seems like something that should have been fought for in the 1970s, at the latest. Black and brown people continue to worry about how their hair may impact their ability to get and maintain a job, learn at school, or simply live freely in public spaces. According to a 2023 study by LinkedIn and Dove, Black women are found to be 2.5x more likely to face discrimination in the workplace simply for wearing their natural hair.

Someone’s hairstyle shouldn’t be a massive deal but racism is still real! So here we are. Darryl George is a student at (the ironically named) Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas. He is a junior who was suspended for how he wore his locs the very same week that the state’s CROWN Act went into effect.

George’s mother said that he received multiple disciplinary notes and was punished by receiving in-school suspension because his locs were in a ponytail. A school district spokesperson told KTRK, a CNN affiliate, that their hair length rule doesn’t violate the CROWN Act. I was confused by the hair length argument, but the Barbers Hill Independent School District dress and grooming code revealed some incredible policies that were used to reprimand Darryl. Their policy states, “Male students’ hair must not extend below the top of a t-shirt collar or be gathered or 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.” This seems very antiquated.

Of course, this mostly targets men of color, but what about women, trans, and nonbinary folks?  I know quite a few women of color who have locs. Is it okay for them but not for black boys? What is the logical basis? Or what about white guys? They can have long curly hair that grows well below their eyebrows or ear lobes. What is the reasoning for any of this?

The school told Darryl George, who was also told he couldn’t wear frayed jeans, that he must change his clothing and that he must cut his locs. Changing clothes is easy. As a Black woman, I know that the process of having locs is not always easy. Cutting them can alter one’s appearance and sense of self. Many people grow their locs for a long time. George’s mother added that this policy violates the CROWN Act and that it mostly targets black kids. She doesn’t want others to have to endure what her son has dealt with. She reiterated that he has no plans to cut his locs. Darryl could go to the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program, which many may know as an alternative school if he doesn’t cut his hair. And as his mother reminds us, his locs have nothing to do with his schooling or his behavior. 

I went to public school. I attended a very large university for undergraduate school. I have encountered people with all types of hairstyles. And I can’t remember a single time where I was distracted or unable to learn because of someone’s hair. And I certainly don’t remember someone complaining about how my hair impacted them negatively. I have often discussed with my sister, who is a teacher, the point of school. Is it mostly to teach or mostly to control? There’s evidence of both clearly, but the fact that control is even in the running is somewhat troubling. Students have to be controlled to an extent or there could be chaos. But how are locs so bad that they must be regulated, versus say, a buzzcut? 

I have very long, curly, thick hair. My entire life I have had to contemplate if I was going to straighten my hair or not in certain situations. The CROWN Act helps to alleviate some of this tension. So now that it is in effect in Texas, it is sad to still see stories like this. Hopefully, there will be a remedy and he will be able to keep his beautiful hairstyle! 

(via CNN, featured image: FG Trade, AzmanJaka, JLco – Julia Amaral, and CarlosDavid.org via Getty Images)

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