How Is Hair Discrimination at Schools Still Happening in 2023?
On Aug. 31, a student at Barbers Hill High School named Darryl George was punished with one week of in-school suspension. His crime? "Violating" the dress code due the length of his loc'd hairstyle. After returning to class on the morning of Monday, Sept. 18, wearing his hair in the same style — only this time, twisted and tied on top of his head — he was immediately issued the same punishment, according to NPR. This marked two back-to-back suspensions for wearing locs.
Here's the thing: Barbers Hill High School is located in Texas, the same state in which Governor Greg Abbott signed the CROWN Act into law back in May. The act aims to prohibit discrimination based on hair texture and protective hairstyles, like braids, locs, twists, and knots, and 23 states have signed it into law so far. In Texas, the legislation went into effect on Sept. 1 — one day after administrators at George's school issued the suspension.
Clearly, officials aren't offering up the protections they promised. Per AP news, on Sept. 23, George's family filed a lawsuit against the Texas state governor and attorney general for failing to enforce the anti-discrimination law.
This isn't the first time Barbers Hill has sparked national outrage over its prejudiced dress code, either; they did the same thing to students DeAndre Arnold and Kaden Bradford in 2020. This caused a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas to rule that the district's hair policy is in fact discriminatory, inspiring Arnold's trip to the Oscars with the team behind the award-winning short "Hair Love."
While Arnold's story had a happier ending, the reality is that so many students are forced to face unfair discipline for simply wearing a style that protects their natural hair. The superintendent for Barbers Hill High School, Greg Poole, even stated that the school's policy is legal, saying: "when you are asked to conform . . . and give up something for the betterment of the whole, there is a psychological benefit," PBS reports. "We need more teaching (of) sacrifice." Still, regardless of how long the rule has been in place, if it is a problematic one, would it not make sense to get rid of it?
Meanwhile, this is all happening against the backdrop of politicians like Rand Paul, who are claiming that passing the CROWN Act on a federal level is not necessary, according to Yahoo News. It's always disheartening when politicians don't acknowledge the importance of passing laws to protect Black citizens, but it is infuriating when institutions blatantly break the ones already set in place for that very purpose.
School should be a safe space for learning, where students are understanding more about who they are as young adults in the world. Shouldn't there be more important things to worry about than how Black students wear their hair?
As frustrating as it is to continue having this conversation, and regardless of how many times cases like this pop up, it's imperative to treat each one with more outrage than the last. This is the only way to get schools and politicians to understand the weight of their discriminatory practices. The fight will be worth it when it is finally illegal to discriminate against someone for the way their natural hair grows out of their head. So, Barbers Hill High School, enjoy the spotlight — the world is watching.