Texas Lawmakers Draft a Hair Discrimination Bill

The Texas Legislative Black Caucus is working on a bill that would ban discrimination based on hair textures and styles commonly associated with race

Deandre Arnold, a Texas high schooler, says he was suspended over his shoulder-length dreadlocks. Barbers Hill High School also allegedly refused to let him walk in his own graduation if he does not cut his hair in time.

The Texas Legislative Black Caucus has announced it's working on a bill that would ban discrimination based on hair textures and styles commonly associated with race following the suspension of a black high school student near Houston.

State lawmakers, accompanied by black officials and advocates, introduced the CROWN Act at a press conference on Thursday, the Texas Tribune reported.

CROWN stands for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, and the measure would protect against "unjust grooming policies that have a disparate impact on black children, women, and men" in workplaces and public schools, CROWN Coalition advocate Adjoa Asamoah said. The coalition is a national alliance of organizations working to end hair discrimination.

The bill is a show of support for students like Deandre Arnold Barbers, who was suspended from Hill High School in Mont Belvieu and won't be able to attend graduation unless he cuts his dreadlocks.

Barbers Hill Independent School District, which includes Hill High, prohibits male students' hair from falling below their eyebrows or ears.

District Superintendent Greg Poole said there is no school policy that prohibits any hair styles.

"Our policy limits the length. It's been that way for 30 years," Poole said.

Democratic Rep. Rhetta Bowers said the coalition approached her about a year ago to bring such a bill to Texas.

"These conversations are just becoming public now," Bowers said. "People in our community were having these conversations around the kitchen table or in beauty salons and barber shops."

The bill is expected to be introduced for the 2021 Texas legislative session.

Arnold's case has received national attention. He recently appeared on the daytime talk show Ellen and was gifted $20,000 toward his education.

On Sunday, he will attend the Academy Awards as a guest of "Hair Love," a nominated short film about an African American father, his daughter and her hair.

California was the first state to ban workplace and school discrimination against black people for wearing hairstyles such as braids, twists and locks. New York and New Jersey soon followed suit.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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