Texas Judge Sets Trial Date After Black Student Suspended Over His Locs

The case involves Darryl George, who was suspended multiple times from his school because of the length of his twisted locs

<p>AP Photo/Lekan Oyekanmi</p> Darryl George

AP Photo/Lekan Oyekanmi

Darryl George

The case of a Texas Black high school student who was suspended multiple times in the last several months over his twisted locs is headed to trial, according to reports.

A judge on Wednesday ordered a trial to be held on Feb. 22 to determine if Barbers Hill Independent School violated Texas's CROWN Act when it punished Barbers Hill High School student Darryl George about the length of his locs, the Associated Press, CBS affiliate KHOU and the Houston Chroniclereported.

The law, which went into effect last September, bars natural hair discrimination at work, in schools and as a part of housing policies.

According to his family, Darryl was placed on in-school suspension in August following the alleged violation of his school's dress and grooming policy.

The following month, Darryl was suspended again when he had the same hairstyle at school. In October, Darryl's school transferred him to a disciplinary alternative education program, per a letter from the school's principal sent to Darryl's family.

In December, upon returning to class, Darryl was again cited by the school for not cutting his hair and was referred to in-school suspension, Dr. Candice Matthews, a spokesperson for the George family, previously told PEOPLE in a statement.

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In September, Darryl's family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, alleging that Darry's suspension violated the Crown Act.

That same month, Barbers Hill Independent ISD said that it filed a declaratory judgment lawsuit in September, asking for court clarification about whether the CROWN Act prohibits grooming policies surrounding a male student’s hair length.

“We are here today because we are standing in the gap for Darryl George and his family in reference to the CROWN Act,”  Matthews said at a press conference Wednesday, the Houston Chronicle reported. “We are here because racism has reared its ugly head again and this time we’re dropping the hammer of accountability and the scale of justice.”

“I have a son, 18 years old, that wants to go to school, that wants to get an education, and ya'll messing with him, Why?” said Daryl's mother, Darresha George, who also spoke at the press conference, per CBS affiliate KHOU.

Darryl said that he is pleased that his case is going to be heard in court. “I’m glad that things are moving and we’re getting through this,” he said, via the AP.

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Allie Booker, the George family’s attorney, filed a temporary restraining order but was not granted one because the judge felt that the issue could be resolved faster and wanted to case to head to trial, per NBC affiliate KPRC.

“I love my hair, it is sacred and it is my strength. All I want to do is go to school and be a model student. I am being harassed by school officials and treated like a dog,” Darryl said in the affidavit for the temporary restraining order, the AP reported.

Greg Poole, the superintendent of Barbers Hill ISD, defended the district's decision to suspend Daryl in a full-page ad published in the Jan. 14 edition of the Chronicle. He noted that “relaxing standards without any regard to academic implication is the precedent it creates,” citing the dress codes at military academies such as West Point and Annapolis.

"They realize being an American requires conformity with the positive benefit of unity, and being a part of something bigger than yourself," Poole said in the ad.

He also said that the district is not in violation of the CROWN Act, “and the state representative who authored the bill has clearly stated that it was to protect the ability to wear braids, locs and twists which we have always allowed. She has also stated in a TV interview that hair length is not protected by the Act.”

Related: 8-Year-Old Native American Boy Forced to Cut His Hair by School, ACLU Says

In a statement shared with PEOPLE Tuesday about the published ad, Matthews wrote: “This is very dangerous and he [Poole] has no business having any type of oversight of children and their educational journey."

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Matthews also shared a statement from attorney Booker. “We are going to seek justice for black males in BHISD [Barbers Hill Independent School District] who have long been and are still being discriminated against,” said Booker. “That is a PRE TEXTUAL excuse…the truth is that they allow white males to wear their hair long, just not black ones.”

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Texas State Rep. Ron Reynolds, who co-authored the CROWN Act, also expressed criticism of the school district’s policy. "The lack of accountability from state leadership to Barbers Hill ISD has allowed the district to be the exception for compliance, which has been to the detriment of Darryl George,” he said in a statement shared with PEOPLE.

“Without enforcement from the state, this unacceptable situation will continue a dangerous precedent against students who may face undue disciplinary actions despite codified protections passed by state lawmakers this past legislative session,” he added.

PEOPLE reached out to Matthews and Barbers Hill ISD for comment about the upcoming trial, but they did not immediately respond.

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