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After black student suspended over dreadlocks, some Texas lawmakers want to ban hair discrimination

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The administration at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu told senior DeAndre Arnold to cut his dreadlocks. YouTube screenshot

Members of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus announced Thursday in Houston they are working on a bill — called the CROWN Act — that will ban discrimination based on hair textures and styles commonly associated with race.

The legislation is a response to reports about DeAndre Arnold, a black Mont Belvieu student who was suspended because of his locs and told he couldn’t walk at his high school graduation unless he cut them.

Versions of the CROWN Act, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” were implemented in California, New York and New Jersey last year. The act protects against “unfair grooming policies that have a disparate impact on black children, women, and men” in workplaces and public schools, according to a press release from Rep. Rhetta Andrews Bowers, D-Garland.

Lawmakers, in conjunction with the CROWN Coalition, a national alliance of organizations working to end hair discrimination, said Thursday they would pursue the bill in the 2021 legislative session. Attending the press conference were Reps. Ron Reynolds, Shawn Thierry, Bowers and Carl Sherman, along with State Board of Education member Aicha Davis.

Arnold’s case is the most recent incident of hair discrimination in Texas that has garnered national attention. Celebrities and politicians have spoken out against the school policy, which prohibits male students’ hair from falling below their eyebrows or ears. Arnold appeared on Ellen last week where he was gifted $20,000 to continue his education. On Sunday, he will attend the Oscars as a guest of “Hair Love,” a nominated animated short film. But the school hasn’t budged and neither has Arnold.

Other high-profile cases include that of Pearland junior high school student Juelz Trice, who forced to fill in his shaved hair design with a Sharpie to avoid suspension, and 4-year-old Michael Trimble of Tatum, who was given a choice between cutting his hair or wearing a dress and being addressed as a girl, according to a CNN report.

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