HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- "It has been a long journey," DeAndre Arnold said after advocating for the CROWN Act for three years.
But now, it is signed, sealed, and delivered. The bill prohibits race-based hair discrimination in Texas workplaces, schools, and housing policies and has been signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.
The CROWN Act stands for "Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair." House Bill 567, you might remember, stalled during the 2021 legislative session, but this time around passed through both chambers with overwhelming support.
"Everybody thought we always had to look a certain way in order to be deemed professional, or even just to get jobs, or in my case, just to go to school," Arnold said.
Arnold's movement started back in 2020 when the Barbers Hill High School student faced in-school suspension and was also told he couldn't walk in his graduation because his locks were too long and he didn't follow the district's "hair code policy."
The district voted not to change the policy. Arnold, who has Trinidadian roots, stood up against the school district, saying his hair was a major part of his religion, identity, and cultural heritage. He ended up leaving Barbers Hill and graduating from another school.
His story got national attention and even caught the eyes of Hollywood. ABC13 Anchor Chauncy Glover followed Arnold all the way to L.A. for Hollywood's biggest night after he was invited to attend the Oscars with filmmaker Mathew Cherry, who won the Academy Award that night for the best animated short film "Hair Love."
The kid from a small rural town found himself going from reprimand to the red carpet. Now, he represents a new law that Arnold says protects others from the same discrimination he faced.
"After all this time to get what we've been fighting for, this made everything worth it because I know now they can never do anything like this to anybody else in the state of Texas. That is the most validating feeling I've had thus far on this entire journey. And to say this got done in Texas, where people said this would not be possible. This needs to be a message to everybody out there: no matter what you think the odds are, fight for what you believe in," Arnold said.
Arnold and his cousin, who also has long locks, filed grievances against the school district and later filed a lawsuit. That litigation is pending.
Arnold is now at Louisiana State University headed into his senior year, majoring in veterinary medicine, and was on the Dean's List this semester with a 3.9 GPA.
Twenty-one other states have also passed the CROWN Act. The new law goes into effect in Texas on Sept. 1.
"I can't believe it. This is going to allow so many people to be themselves without the fear of being judged by their hair," Arnold added.