Texas Student With Dreadlocks Faces Repeated Suspension Despite CROWN Act

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Darryl George, 18, was dismissed from Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, 30 miles from Houston, for more than a month because he wouldn’t cut his hair. He recently went back to class but was immediately suspended again.

Texas is one of several states that have passed what is called the CROWN Act. Making the World a Respectful and Open Place for Natural Hair is what CROWN stands for.

There is a rule that says hair discrimination based on race is illegal. The CROWN Act has been used a lot in the case of Darryl George. But does it work?

Emily Berman, a law professor at the University of Houston Law Center, talked about it with Houston Matters on Monday. To put it simply, the school found a way to accommodate the length of the hair instead of the style itself.

With the CROWN Act, historically white, Eurocentric haircuts can no longer be expected as a sign of industry in schools and workplaces.

The CROWN Act in Texas says that grooming or dress codes can’t be biased against hairstyles or hair textures that are traditionally or widely linked to race. Berman said that dreadlocks, knots, and twists are all part of that. She said that Barbers Hill seemed to use length as a way to get around things.

“So it’s interesting because the Texas momentum for this law was set in motion by a similar case in the same school district around two or three years ago, where this school district had a policy that explicitly banned, along with other things, dreadlocks,” she explained. “

A student was dismissed and the family gave suit, and ultimately the school district changed its policy, and removed the ban on dreadlocks.”

Then, the school district made it a rule that male students’ hair can never go below their eyebrows, earlobes, or the top of their t-shirt. Berman said this calls into question what the program was meant to do.

“So, if it was purposefully implemented for that purpose (to keep the previous policy in place while complying with the new law), it seems like that would be problematic for the school district,” said Berman.

“But I think the other question is, is the length of dreadlocks that extend below the top of a T-shirt collar an inherent part of a hairstyle that is historically or culturally associated with race?”

“So if you have dreadlocks that don’t extend below your hair collar,” she explained, “would we think of that as dreadlocks, or is that imposing a limit that discriminates based on a particular hairstyle?”

There have been problems with hair rules before. Berman said that hair rules have also been questioned because they are unfair to women. For the task, female students don’t have to have their hair a certain length.

“The law says that anything that discriminates based on sex, you have to have an important government interest to justify that,” she stated. “And so, one question is what is your justification for requiring male hair to be a particular length without requiring female hair to be that same length?”

Berman said that the amount of time is usually talked about in schools rather than at work. Being turned down for a job because of your hair doesn’t mean that doesn’t happen.

“It tends to be more like… the need to be professional.” After that, the question is who makes that choice?”

Then Berman said that these kinds of bans usually include rules that make sure implementation can’t be unfair to some groups of people.

“This kind of dress code can’t be held more strictly against Black employees than against other employees,” In this case, another question to ask is what they do with white kids whose hair goes below their collars. Are they just as quick to suspend them as they are someone with dreadlocks?”

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