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Texas judge rules school district can restrict the length of male students’ natural hair

Darryl George, an 18-year-old high school junior, stands outside a courthouse in Anahuac, Texas, on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024. (Photo: Lekan Oyekanmi/AP via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) — A Texas judge ruled Thursday that the state’s CROWN Act does not make it unlawful for school dress codes to limit a student’s hair length.

The decision is a blow to Darryl George, a Houston-area high school student who sued the Barbers Hill Independent School District after he was suspended for months over the length of his locs hairstyle.

The defendants say they plan to appeal the ruling.

The Texas CROWN Act, went into effect on September 1, 2023, and prohibits discrimination based on hairstyles that are commonly associated with a particular race or culture.

The dress code allows students to wear locs hairstyles but places limits on the length of male students’ hair. It states “boy’s hair will not extend below the eyebrows, below the ear lobes, or below the top of a t-shirt collar.”

Last September, the school district filed a declaratory judgment lawsuit asking the court to decide if the “Barbers Hill Independent School District’s dress and grooming code policy, limiting student hair length does not violate the CROWN Act.”

George and his family have refused to cut the teen’s locs and have argued the state’s CROWN ACT prohibits such policies. They have also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against school officials and Texas state leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, alleging they have failed to enforce the state law and have caused emotional distress.

Ahead of the trial, George told reporters that spending most of this academic year isolated and on in-school suspension has been “very lonely.”

“I started my dreads for a reason, and that’s just to feel close to my people … to feel my ancestors,” George said.

“It just makes me feel angry, very angry … that throughout all these years, throughout all the fighting for the Black History that we’ve done, that we still have to do this again, and again, and again. It’s ridiculous.”

His mother, Darresha, became emotional as she thanked supporters “for making us stand strong.”

“It’s going to be a glorious day. We gone get justice today,” George said. “I’m nervous, but I’m happy.”

In a statement shared before the trial began, Barbers Hill Independent School District Superintendent Greg Poole told CNN the district looks forward to the issue being “legally resolved.”

“The Texas CROWN Act protects hair texture and the wearing of braids, twists and locs. Those with agendas wish to make the CROWN Act a blanket allowance of student expression,” Poole said.

Poole also told CNN “hair length of male students is only constitutionally protected for Native American students.”

In January, Poole placed a full-page ad in the Houston Chronicle, arguing that “being an American requires conformity with the positive benefit of unity,” CNN previously reported.

“Barbers Hill ISD will continue to make decisions to protect and fight for the rights of its community to set the standards and expectations for our school district even if that path takes us to the U.S. Supreme Court,” he wrote in the ad.

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