Teen who inspired 'CROWN Act' testifies at Texas Legislature

Thursday, April 29, 2021
Teen who inspired 'CROWN Act' testifies at Texas Legislature
DeAndre Arnold, the teen who was kept out of high school graduation over the length of his hair, made the next step on a state bill that would ban discrimination over dress in schools and work places.

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) -- A bill that ensures protection against race-based hair discrimination received its first hearing before the Texas House State Affairs Committee on Thursday.

House Bill 392, also known as the CROWN Act - which stands for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair - states schools, colleges and employers "may not discriminate against a hair texture or protective hairstyle commonly or historically associated with race."

This issue made national headlines last year when Mont Belvieu teen DeAndre Arnold was banned from his high school graduation and prom over the length of his dreadlocks. His family sued the school district. Litigation in that suit is still pending.

READ MORE: Texas high school student suspended over dreadlocks, family says

"There is no dress code policy that prohibits any cornrow or any other method of wearing of the hair," the district's superintendent, Greg Poole, insisted.

He, along with several other Texas students, testified in front of lawmakers on Thursday. Arnold, who attended Barbers Hill High School, said he's had dreadlocks for years and said they're part of his identity and culture.

Last summer, a judge ruled the school district's hair policy was discriminatory.

READ MORE: After 2 Black students were suspended, court rules hair policy is discriminatory

"I went from talking about a problem in school to one news station to another, then I'm on [The Ellen Show] that I'm on the red carpet, and then now, I'm at the State Capitol testifying in front of Congress getting this bill passed, so this is incredible right now," said Arnold.

The teen ended up leaving Barbers Hill and graduated from a different high school in a different district. ABC13 followed Arnold to Hollywood for the 2019 Academy Awards alongside the cast of "Hair Love" - a movie about Black hair that won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.

READ MORE: Texas teen who was told his dreadlocks violated school dress code invited to Oscars by 'Hair Love' team

The writer gave Arnold a shout out during his acceptance speech. Eyewitness News caught up with the teen on Thursday.

He's now finishing up his freshman year at LSU, where he's majoring in animal sciences.


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