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 does 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.
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.
Although the infractions listed in the letter sent to Ms. George included a dress code violation, the school district’s superintendent said in a statement that Darryl’s placement in the disciplinary program had nothing to do with his hair, although he didn’t elaborate.
“Confidentiality does not allow us to disclose the infractions that caused his current disciplinary placement but it was unequivocally not because of his hair,” said the superintendent of Barbers Hill Independent School District, Greg Poole, in a statement.
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 spokesperson for the district, told The New York Times last month that the school’s dress code was “not in conflict” with the new law.
Candice Matthews, a civil rights activist who is acting as a representative 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 the 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.
In an email on Thursday, Mr. Bloom disagreed with Ms. Matthews’ characterization of the disciplinary program, adding that students with severe behavioral issues are sent to a different school. Students with “persistent” behavior issues are sent to the Eagle Positive Intervention Center, he added.
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.”