A Texas judge ordered a trial to begin next month in the case of Darryl George, the Houston-area teen who has been suspended from his school for months over the length of his locs hairstyle.
At a hearing Wednesday, Chambers County Judge Chap Cain set a trial date for February 22.
George remains on in-school suspension, according to Candice Matthews, a family spokesperson. He has faced months of disciplinary action because Barbers Hill Independent School District officials say his hairstyle violates the dress code for male students.
The Barbers Hill Independent School District dress code allows students to wear locs hairstyles but places limits on the length of male student’s hair, which cannot be 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.”
School officials have warned George that continued violation of the dress code would result in suspension CNN previously reported.
“Until he cuts [his] hair or we get [a] court ruling to the contrary, he will stay in ISS,” David Bloom, a spokesperson for the district previously told CNN.
But, he added, George’s suspension will not affect his ability to graduate.
“As far as graduation impact, there is none. A program is in place for him to complete his courses in dress-code ISS if he chooses not to trim his hair,” Bloom said, adding that a teacher is assigned to each ISS classroom to help students complete regular coursework.
But George and his family have vowed not to cut his locs – which he wears braided up or twisted – and maintain that his hairstyle should be protected under the state’s Crown Act, a law which prohibits discrimination on the basis of hairstyles “commonly associated with race.”
In September, George and his mother filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the district and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, alleging George’s suspension violates the law.
The following month George was referred to an alternative school program. Greg Poole, superintendent of the Barbers Hill Independent School District, told CNN at the time that the referral was not because of his hairstyle.
A notice sent to George’s family by the school district and obtained by CNN cited alleged violations including, “disruption of the ISS classroom, failure to comply with directives from staff/administration, violation of tardy policy and violation of the dress and grooming policy.”
Allie Booker, an attorney who represents George and his mother, told CNN Thursday she believes the dress code is selectively enforced and hopes the trial will “seek justice for Black males at BHISD who have long been and are still being discriminated against.”
Poole told CNN in a statement the school district filed for a declaratory judgment in the case last year because officials are certain the dress code is “not in violation of the CROWN Act.”
“Texas law mandates that there can be no implied meaning with interpreting statutes,” he said. “The CROWN Act was meant to allow braids, locs or twists, which the district has always allowed. The law was never intended to allow unlimited student expression.”
Earlier this month, Poole placed a full page ad in the Houston Chronicle, arguing that “being an American requires conformity with the positive benefit of unity.”
“The criticism from the Chronicle and other media is based upon assumptions that the school district is clinging to outdated values or social norms but academic excellence never goes out of style,” Poole wrote.
“The litigation is not about what is best for students. 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.”
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