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Family of Black Texas Student Suspended by School Over His Locs Is Suing Governor, Attorney General

Darryl George's latest suspension came after a Texas law went into effect on Sept. 1 that protects against race-based hair discrimination at work and schools

<p>Michael Wyke/AP Photo</p> Darryl George, a 17-year-old junior, before walking across the street to go into Barbers Hill High School after serving a 5-day in-school suspension for not cutting his hair Sept. 18, 2023, in Mont Belvieu, Texas.

Michael Wyke/AP Photo

Darryl George, a 17-year-old junior, before walking across the street to go into Barbers Hill High School after serving a 5-day in-school suspension for not cutting his hair Sept. 18, 2023, in Mont Belvieu, Texas.

The family of a Black student who was suspended by his school in Texas over his hairstyle is suing the state's governor and attorney general.

Darryl George, a junior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, has been placed on in-school suspension since Aug. 31 because his twisted locs violated the school district’s dress and grooming code, the family said, according to the Associated Press. He was suspended again last week for having the same hairstyle when he arrived at school.

On Saturday, a federal civil rights lawsuit was filed by the George family against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, multiple outlets including CNN and the AP reported. The suit alleged that Darryl's suspension violates Texas' CROWN Act.

The law, which went into effect on Sept. 1, prohibits natural hair discrimination at work and schools and in housing policies, The Texas Tribune reported. Abbott signed the legislation in May.

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<p>Michael Wyke/AP Photo</p> Darryl George, left, a 17-year-old junior, and his mother Darresha George, right, talks with reporters before walking across the street to go into Barbers Hill High School after Darryl served a 5-day in-school suspension for not cutting his hair, Sept. 18, 2023, in Mont Belvieu, Texas.

Michael Wyke/AP Photo

Darryl George, left, a 17-year-old junior, and his mother Darresha George, right, talks with reporters before walking across the street to go into Barbers Hill High School after Darryl served a 5-day in-school suspension for not cutting his hair, Sept. 18, 2023, in Mont Belvieu, Texas.

Related: Citing Hair Length Policy, School Asks Teen to Cut Dreadlocks; His Parents Push Back

Texas joined several other states that passed what is commonly known as the “CROWN Act,” which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. A federal version of the legislation passed the House of Representatives last year but was stymied in the Senate, per the AP.

The George family's lawsuit accused Abbott and Paxton of failing to protect Darryl's constitutional rights regarding discrimination as well as freedom of speech. Allie Booker, the family's attorney, wrote in the lawsuit that the teen “should be permitted to wear his hair in the manner in which he wears it ... because the so-called neutral grooming policy has no close association with learning or safety and when applied, disproportionately impacts Black males."

PEOPLE reached out to Abbott and Paxton's offices Monday for comment.

In a statement to PEOPLE Friday, David Bloom of the Barbers Hill Independent School District said that Texas’ new law “prohibits a dress or grooming policy that discriminates against ‘protective hairstyles.’”

“Protective hairstyles,” are defined by the Act as braids, locks and twists,” the statement continued. “The Barbers Hill ISD Dress and Grooming Code permits protective hairstyles, but any hairstyle must be in conformity with the requirement that male students’ hair will not extend, at any time, below the eyebrows or below the ear lobes.

“Further, 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," the statement continued. "Accordingly, protective hairstyles are permitted, but must still comply with the Dress and Grooming Code.”

Related: Teen Says She Was Sent Home from Job at Chick-fil-A for 'Unnatural' Blonde Hair: 'Racist Undertones'

Darresha George, Darryl's mother, previously told the AP that her son was in tears after the most recent suspension.

"Every day my son comes home with tears in his eyes. He's frustrated; he's outraged, aggravated, and it's breaking him down mentally, physically and emotionally," Darresha told ABC News, alleging that throughout the suspension, her son has had to sit on a small stool that hurts his back.

"He keeps getting punished for something that’s irrelevant to his education,” she added while speaking with CNN.

Booker, the George's family attorney, had earlier told CNN that school officials requested a meeting with the family to talk about the hairstyle violations.

“What I expect for them to try to do is to put him out of school,” Booker said, per the news outlet. “But they won’t do it with our consent.”

Related: Mich. Dad Files $1M Lawsuit Against School After Employee Cut 7-Year-Old Biracial Daughter's Hair

Darresha told the AP that hair represents their family’s strength and roots. “[Darryl] has his ancestors locked into his hair, and he knows that,” she said.

A spokesperson who is representing Darryl George and his family told PEOPLE Saturday that the family is not conducting interviews at the present time.

The Barbers Hill Independent School District said that they have filed a declaratory judgment lawsuit Wednesday, asking for court clarification about whether Texas’ CROWN Act bans grooming policies surrounding the length of a male student’s hair.

"Although we believe the new law does not govern hair length,” Barbers Hill Superintendent Greg Poole said, “we are asking the judicial system of Texas to interpret."

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