Student Faces Discipline Over Hairstyle, Aims for a Return to Normalcy

by Joshua Brown
Disciplinary action over hairstyle

For over four weeks, Darryl George, an African American high school student in Texas, has been isolated from his peers as a form of disciplinary action due to his hairstyle. Recently, he was assigned to an alternative disciplinary program where he is slated to spend several additional weeks away from his usual school environment.

In a discussion with The Big Big News, George articulated his disappointment about the educational and social opportunities he’s missing, including his involvement with the school’s football team.

“I am losing the complete educational experience that a classroom offers,” stated George on a recent Thursday.

Initially removed from his regular classes in his Houston-based school in August, George faced disciplinary action when school officials determined that his dreadlocks violated the school district’s dress code by extending below his eyebrows and ears. However, his family contends that his hairstyle does not contravene any established rules.

By the time he is readmitted to Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas, in November, George will have been absent for 56 out of the first 67 days of his junior year. The family has initiated a federal civil rights lawsuit, claiming that the state has not effectively enforced a recently passed law that prohibits discrimination based on hairstyles.

However, George and his family have no plans to change schools. They aim to make a stand, particularly because the school has had previous conflicts over similar issues with other African American male students.

“We must assert our position that Darryl will not alter his hairstyle and will not be forced to leave his community,” said Candice Matthews, a civil rights activist serving as the family’s spokesperson.

After spending considerable time in in-school suspension, George’s family received a letter from the school’s principal, assigning him to the alternative disciplinary program not just for the dress code violation, but also for other offenses including tardiness, disruption in the in-school suspension classroom, and failure to adhere to school directives.

Although Barbers Hill Superintendent Greg Poole noted that the specific reasons for George’s current placement couldn’t be disclosed, he clarified that it was not solely due to his hairstyle.

Darresha George, Darryl’s mother, mentioned that her son did use profane language to vent his frustrations with the in-school suspension. According to the family, George had also been tardy twice. Nonetheless, they believe that the core issue stems from his hairstyle.

“They are clearly retaliating against him,” stated Allie Booker, the attorney representing the family.

On his first day at the disciplinary school, George was placed in a cubicle where he works on school assignments. While he can engage with teachers, he believes he is lagging academically.

“I don’t feel like I’m grasping the educational material being presented,” George commented.

Renuka Rege of Texas Appleseed, a social justice advocacy group, said that while Texas school districts have significant leeway in deciding what behaviors warrant alternative disciplinary education, it is uncommon for a student to be transferred solely for a dress code violation.

Ashley Sawyer, senior staff attorney at the Advancement Project, a civil rights advocacy group, pointed out that dress code violations disproportionately affect students of color. Students often face pressure to comply with norms that do not take into account their cultural or heritage-based preferences, such as wearing natural hair.

George’s family has submitted two religious exemptions related to his hairstyle, one of which has already been rejected, and the other is still under review, as per their attorney Booker.

For generations, men in the George family have worn dreadlocks, a hairstyle with both cultural and religious significance, according to Darresha George, Darryl’s mother. She emphasized the emotional toll this situation is taking on her son both academically and personally.

“Only I can see the emotional impact this is having on him, the sorrow, the reluctance to face each day,” she said, fighting back tears.

Darryl George looks forward to a return to his regular life. “I wish to resume my youthful experiences, rejoin my football team, and make the most of my remaining high school years,” he said.

The article was reported by Mumphrey from Phoenix and Ma from Washington D.C.

The educational team at The Big Big News is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The Associated Press is exclusively responsible for the content.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Disciplinary action over hairstyle

What is the main issue that Darryl George is facing?

Darryl George, an African American high school student in Texas, is facing disciplinary action and has been isolated from his classmates due to his hairstyle, which the school claims violates its dress code policy.

Who is representing the family in their legal actions?

The family is being represented by Allie Booker, an attorney, in their federal civil rights lawsuit against the state. They allege that the state failed to enforce a new law that prohibits discrimination based on hairstyles.

What additional offenses has Darryl George allegedly committed?

Apart from the dress code violation related to his hairstyle, Darryl George has also been accused of violating the tardy policy, disrupting the in-school suspension classroom, and not complying with school directives.

What steps has the family taken to seek religious exemptions for Darryl’s hairstyle?

The George family has filed two religious exemptions to support Darryl’s hairstyle. One request has already been denied, and the other is currently under review.

What is the family’s primary goal?

The family’s primary aim is not to change schools but to challenge the existing system. They are taking a stand particularly because the school has had previous conflicts with other African American male students over similar issues.

How has the disciplinary action affected Darryl George academically?

Darryl George feels that he is falling behind academically. He believes he is missing out on the complete educational experience a classroom offers and is not adequately grasping the educational material presented in the disciplinary program where he is currently placed.

What organizations or individuals have commented on the broader implications of this case?

Renuka Rege of Texas Appleseed, a social justice advocacy group, and Ashley Sawyer, a senior staff attorney at the Advancement Project, have commented on the general implications. They discuss the discretionary power that Texas school systems have in such disciplinary matters and how these issues disproportionately affect students of color.

How is the emotional well-being of Darryl George being affected?

According to his mother, Darresha George, the situation has had a significant emotional impact on Darryl. He experiences sorrow and reluctance to face each day, which is causing her emotional distress as well.

What is the timeline for Darryl George’s return to his regular school?

Darryl George is expected to return to Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas, in November. By that time, he will have missed 56 out of the first 67 days of his junior year.

Is Darryl George involved in any extracurricular activities at school?

Yes, Darryl George is a member of his high school’s football team, an activity he has been unable to participate in due to the disciplinary actions against him.

More about Disciplinary action over hairstyle

  • Texas School District Dress Code Policies
  • Federal Laws on Discrimination in Education
  • Overview of Civil Rights Lawsuits in Education
  • Understanding Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs
  • The Cultural and Religious Importance of Hairstyles
  • Texas Appleseed: Social Justice Advocacy
  • Advancement Project: Civil Rights Advocacy

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Tom G October 14, 2023 - 2:03 am

i read the full article, very in-depth and eye-opening. Makes you think twice about what’s going on in our education system.

Nina B October 14, 2023 - 2:16 am

Great article, very detailed. This really highlights the systemic issues we’re facing in schools today.

Alan S October 14, 2023 - 3:17 am

The fact that the family had to go legal shows how messed up the system is. this needs to change, and fast.

Sara L October 14, 2023 - 5:58 am

It’s like we’ve gone back in time or something. Discrimination over hair? really?

Chris H October 14, 2023 - 11:04 am

Wow, 56 outta 67 days missed… that’s just insane. How’s he gonna catch up?

Deborah F October 14, 2023 - 2:50 pm

Im a teacher and i can tell you, hair has never disrupted my classroom. let the kid learn!

Mike J October 14, 2023 - 3:34 pm

Man, can’t believe this is still an issue in 2023. Schools should focus on education, not hairstyles.

Fiona R October 14, 2023 - 3:41 pm

It’s not just about hair, it’s about cultural and even religious freedom. Schools gotta realize that.

Rick M October 14, 2023 - 7:44 pm

Schools shouldnt have that much power to affect a student’s life negatively over something so trivial. needs to be checked.

Jenny K October 15, 2023 - 12:39 am

Where’s the focus on actual education? A kid misses more than a month of school for hair? That’s messed up.


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