Targeted hair discrimination at East Bernard school, says mother

Issue at school reignites fight for CROWN Act
dyree williams.PNG
Posted at 4:49 PM, May 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-06 17:49:36-04

EAST BERNARD, Texas — Many minority groups are considered protected classes under federal law and cannot be discriminated against.

However, there is a form of discrimination that disproportionately affects Black Americans.

Hair discrimination has been a controversy throughout the U.S. in various settings.

From job interviews to school classrooms, Black Americans have faced pressure from colleagues, bosses, and educators to manipulate their hair in an unnatural and oftentimes unhealthy way.

This is something that is prevalent across the country and has occurred in Texas. In fact, many times.

Most recently to 17-year-old Dyree Williams of East Bernard, Texas.

Williams and his mother Desiree Bullock recently moved to the eastern town from Cincinnati in February 2022.

Bullock states the move was due to new opportunities and change.

Upon arriving in their new home city; however, Bullock was told that her son could not enroll unless he were to cut his hair as it violates the school's and district's dress code.

25 News obtained a copy of the dress code of East Bernard ISD.

The hair guidelines state "Braided hair or twisted rows/strands will not be allowed."

These are common styles within the Black community and are called protective styles; hairstyles are used amongst the community to minimize manipulation and protect it from the weather elements.

Compared to the other hairstyle guidelines, the one Williams is accused of violating refers to styles originating and unique to black people.

Bullock said she filed an exemption request for her son based on religious grounds. Upon speaking further, Bullock claimed the exemption form makes mentions adequate reasons for exemption such as religion but also culture.

Bullock's request was denied by the East Bernard superintendent, Courtney Hudgins, stating "The exemption request you filed has not been granted at this time."

The rest of the email went on to say "Assuming the children can meet the dress code requirements, as well as all necessary paperwork for enrollment, they are welcome to enroll with our district registrar."

The email also included guidance on how Bullock can make an appointment for enrollment.

She has since contacted Hudgins on a reason for the denial.

Despite contacting the superintendent multiple times, Bullock has not heard back, leaving frustration to grow.

No one from the school or district has reached out to her since that last email.

The email contains a statement from the school district saying, "East Bernard ISD does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, nationality, or disability."

But it appears that is not the case according to the family.

"Our hair grows like this," said Bullock. "It locks up, it puffs up, it's nappy...Why should we change the way are to appease others?"

This is a sentiment that is shared by many Black people in the U.S.

According to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Black women are 80 percent more likely to change their hair from its natural form to "fit" into the office setting and are nearly twice as likely to straighten their hair compared to their white counterparts.

But it's not just in the workforce this hair discrimination is apparent, as seen in Dyree Williams' case.

Bullock has stated her son is sad about not being able to maintain his current hairstyle and attend class.

Not being enrolled prevents him from joining extracurriculars, including track- something he used to do back in Cincinnati.

She said should he enroll, he would stay in in-school suspension and face disciplinary actions.

Right now she is homeschooling her son.

Moving is not an option for them, but neither is cutting his hair.

The mother also shared how her son aspires to attend veterinary school, which could be in jeopardy since he cannot get the prerequisites, but they remain steadfast on Williams keeping his hair how it is.

Black people's hair has a texture that is unique to their race, both in its tangible and cultural form.

The CROWN Act, which stands for "Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair," is a law that was created to make illegal race-based hair discrimination and to ensure protection for the natural hair textures and styles that fall in this category.

The law would prohibit this special type of discrimination in both schools and workplaces.

The website states girls as young as five experience hair discrimination.

New research has also been published stating Black women with natural hairstyles are regarded as less professional than Black women with straightened hair and can even and often limit job opportunities.

The CROWN Act has been brought up in Texas politics before.

Then 11-year-old Maddox Cozart of Troy faced similar problems about his hairstyle and spent more than two weeks in in-school suspension.

The family advocated for the implementation of the prospective bill, but it failed in the House.

As of now, 13 states have enacted the law itself or similar ones. 28 municipalities as well along with 30 states have pre-filed or intend to do so, according to the LDF.

Superintendent Courtney Hudgens of the East Bernard ISD released a statement to 25 News on May 1.

"East Bernard ISD is aware of the allegations raised by the parent in this situation," said the release. "East Bernard ISD has not denied enrollment to the individual involved in this situation, as no enrollment or registration documents have been filed. East Bernard ISD intends to comply with state law regarding enrollment and attendance if and when an enrollment application is completed."

The statement did not mention the accusations of discrimination nor addressed the claims of no longer communicating with Bullock.

To learn more about natural hair discrimination, visit the NAACP LDF website.