The mother of a Barbers Hill ISD student who drew national attention after being disciplined for wearing dreadlocks filed a federal lawsuit against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, accusing them of failing to enforce the CROWN Act.
The suit, filed Saturday by Houston-based attorney Allie Booker, says the pair are “guilty by omission and as a bystander” to Barbers Hill ISD’s disciplinary actions against Darryl George.
The petition seeks an injunction requiring Paxton and Abbott to use their authority to stop Barbers Hill ISD and others from punishing students for locs, braid, twists and other protective styles “that are alleged to be or that are longer than the district or schools’ length requirement.”
It also alleges Barbers Hill ISD has failed to adhere to state and federal laws. The student’s mother, Darresha George, filed the suit asking for a declaratory judgment and a temporary restraining order.
Spokespersons for Barbers Hill ISD did not respond for comment at the time of publication.
The lawsuit comes after Darryl George, a junior at Barbers Hill High School in Chambers County, received national media attention when he received a two-week in-school suspension for his dreadlocks. School officials said the length of his hair violates the district’s dress code.
The CROWN Act, a Texas law that went into effect Sept. 1, outlaws discrimination on the basis of “hair texture or protective hairstyles associated with race.” Barbers Hill Independent School District dress code sets guidelines for how long male students’ hair can be.
“Plaintiff D.G. should be permitted to wear his hair in the manner in which he wears it (which is gathered in a style above his ear lobes, shirt collar, and eyebrows) because the so called neutral grooming policy has no close association with learning or safety and when applied, disproportionately impacts black males as a protected class (race/sex) of student/citizens,” the lawsuit states.
According to the lawsuit, a Barbers Hill administrator pulled Darryl George out of class and disciplined him due to his hairstyle a day before the CROWN Act went into effect on Aug. 31.
“He has not cut his hair since the time the locs began to form and was strategically targeted by (Assistant Principal) Ryan Rodriguez and other district personnel the day before the law went into effect, despite the fact that school started on or about August 16, 2023,” the lawsuit states.
It also alleges the defendants are aware that “BHISD’s grooming policy pretextually focuses on the current hair length but is aimed at the hair style.” Additionally, it states that the defendants failed to intervene while George was being denied learning materials and his grades suffered.
The lawsuit says Abbott and Paxton have allowed Barbers Hill to violate individual freedom of expression and speech rights protected under the First Amendment for individuals with braids, locs, twists and protected styles.
It also alleges that the defendants have violated due process rights “under the 14th Amendment because they fail to stop schools and school districts from making and enforcing student dress and grooming policies.”
On Sept. 20, the school district filed a petition for a declaratory judgment in a separate case seeking court clarification on whether the newly passed CROWN Act prohibits grooming policies addressing the length of a male student’s hair.
“Although we believe the new law does not govern hair length, we are asking the judicial system of Texas to interpret,” Barbers Hill ISD Superintendent Greg Poole said.
The offices of the governor and the attorney general did not respond to requests for comments at the time of publication.