Listen to this article here
The Crown Act, if passed by the Senate, would help 17-year-old Dyree Williams, who is currently barred from entering his new high school. Yet, according to his mother, Desiree Bullock, it’s because he is Black with natural locs that the school district is not allowing him to learn.
I feel like (the district’s hair policy) needs to change, I feel like it’s horrible and I feel like it’s only toward African American children or people.”
Since birth, Dyree has worn twists, braids, and locks all his life as a foundational part of his identity and a direct connection to his ancestors. Yet, when he and his family moved from Cincinnati, Ohio, to East Bernard, 50 miles outside of Houston, Texas, in February, his new school’s dress code policy stated that “braided hair or corn rows will not be allowed,” per CNN.
East Bernard Independent School District and the school itself have not responded to Williams’ mother for clarification on their decision and did not reply for comment to CNN.
His mother is refusing to comply, saying, “… just it’s not an option … We don’t consider them dreadlocks because we don’t dread them, we love them.”
As a result of East Bernard’s decision, Bullock is forced to homeschool Dyree and his two sisters.
What about the C.R.O.W.N. Act?
Hair discrimination happens across the country from schools to employers, but help may be on the way. On March 18, The House passed a bill that would ban race-based hair discrimination at work, federal programs and public accommodations. It’s the second time it’s passed the House and lawmakers are hopeful this time it will succeed in passing the Senate.
The CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act, passed along party lines with a vote of 235-189. The bill is now headed to the Senate for a vote.
Why are school districts measuring kids’ hair?
The school’s student handbook, where the district’s policy on hair is spelled out, states that “Boy’s hair may not extend below the eyebrows, below the tops of the ears or below a conventional standup shirt collar, and must not be more than one-inch difference in the length of the hair on the side to the length of the hair on top.”
CNN obtained a copy of the handbook, which has been removed from the district’s website. The handbook later states, “This includes but not limited to tall hair styles, side swept bang styles, and long hair dangling over shaved sides or shaved back of the head. This also includes mullets and mullets in the making. Braided hair or corn rows will not be allowed. No extremes in hair styles.”
“East Bernard ISD’s hair policy is deeply discriminatory and needs to be changed,” said Brian Klosterboer, an attorney for the ACLU of Texas.
“The policy contains explicit gender discrimination that recent court decisions have found to be unconstitutional and violate Title IX, and it also explicitly bans ‘braided hair or twisted rows/strands,’ which is a proxy for race discrimination and disproportionately harms Black students in the district.”
So far, the CROWN Act and other similar legislation have become law in 14 states, including Maryland, and has been filed in 16 other states.