A Michigan teen looking to help children with cancer has found himself suspended from school for his charitable act.
J.T. Gaskins, a leukemia survivor himself, is growing out his hair to donate it to Locks of Love, an organization that makes hairpieces out of donated hair for children that have lost their own hair due to cancer treatment and can’t afford to purchase a wig. Their goal is to help children who have hair loss to grow “confidence and normalcy.”
But Gaskins, 17, has run afoul of the policies at Madison Academy, where he attends school. The academy’s student handbook states that male students need to wear their hair “clean, neat… off the collar, off the ears and out of the eyes.” It also forbids “initials, wavy lines, cut-in designs, spiked hair, Mohawks, fauxhawks, pony tails or pig tails.”
Gaskins told the Flint Journal that the school should make exceptions to the long hair rule when done for altruistic reasons, as long as they sign an agreement promising to donate the hair when it reaches Locks of Love’s minimum length of 10 inches.
“This is something I want to do, and I feel very strongly about it.”
Gaskins’ mother, Christa Plante, said that the school could “turn this into such a positive learning experience.”
The school, however, isn’t budging, and a recent board meeting upheld Gaskins’ suspension.
An online petition asking Madison Academy and the school board to allow Gaskins to grow his hair has currently received over 3,400 signatures. Plante asks in the petition “to allow the boys the same rights and freedoms [to donate their hair] as the female students.”
School superintendent William Kneer told ABC, “In this five minute span [of discussion at the board meeting], we’re not going to up and change our policy.”
Kneer added that he is working with the board to find a compromise that would allow Gaskins to return to school.
UPDATE: As of January 31, the online petition has received almost 45,000 signatures.