Educational institutions consist of school dress codes that dictate what students should not wear while being at school and things that are considered inappropriate. These regulations serve as guidelines and are enforced by faculty and teaching staff. Dress code rules set by schools have recently sparked controversy, because they have been misused, blocking students’ self expression in a violation of their civil rights. Taking away student’s rights to express themselves and their unique identities is unjust and should not be tolerated in the educational institutions that are supposed to benefit them.
Darryl George, a junior at Barbers Hill High school, located in Mont Belvieu, was a victim of the school’s unjust policy enforcement. He was suspended due to his hairstyle. The highschool says that male students are not allowed to have hair that “extends below the eyebrows, earlobes, or top of a T- shirt collar.” In addition to this extremely specific and rigid standard, students’ hair must be “clean, well-grooming, geometrical, and not an unnatural color or variation.”
It is concerning that a student should be suspended over something as simple as a hairstyle choice when the purpose of school is for students to grow as individuals through knowledge and community, not exclusion. In no way do these rules have anything to do with fostering effective learning in school. The length or color of a student’s hair does not harm anyone’s learning and is, frankly, a waste of time to enforce. It creates unnecessary friction and more obstacles for the student to face. No student’s inherent human or civil rights to an education should be contingent upon adhering to a dress code.
Repressive dress codes also open up the possibility for students to become the target of racial discrimination and to be denied their lawfully guaranteed education. Different cultures incorporate their own hairstyles as part of their identity and cultural heritage. Punishing someone for their hairstyle is outrageous and serves no purpose but to bully the student and demonstrate power over how a student presents themselves.
Darryl George is a victim of abuse via school regulations. He was racially discriminated against by the school for wearing dreadlocks which are culturally important to the identity of black people to the detriment of his learning. His family has filed a complaint and a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state Governor and Attorney General for failure to enforce a new law preventing discrimination based on hairstyles.
More attention should be brought to cases like this where students’ educational journey is complicated with roadblocks in negotiating their own cultural expression. The normalization of these rules and regulations should be closely monitored, because it can harm students and perpetuate a toxic environment where children feel a lack of power over how they choose to present themselves.
Simpler dress codes should be implemented instead, such as making sure that clothing does not include hate speech and shirts should cover at least half of the torso, a policy that should be uniform for all genders. Technically speaking, Darryl George did violate school regulations but there is far more to this story than meets the eye. Rules and laws, although helpful, are not always inherently right. Despite violating the school’s dress code, Darryl George is not in the wrong. Rather, Barbers Hill High school and an inequitable student dress code have violated George’s rights.