Teen cancer survivor growing hair for Locks of Love suspended

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

A 17-year-old cancer survivor was recently suspended because his growing hair did not meet current dress code standards for his school

A young man in Burton, MI, was recently suspended from his school because his attempt to grow his hair for Locks of Love did not fit into the school’s dress code.

J.T. Gaskins was diagnosed with leukemia when he was a baby, but has been living cancer-free since the age of seven. But, he decided that he wanted to do something for other kids living with cancer today: grow his hair and donate it to Locks of Love.

Locks of Love is a public, non-profit organization that provides hairpieces for financially disadvantaged youth under the age of 21 in both the United States and Canada. Kids can be suffering from long-term medical hair loss for any diagnosis, including cancer treatment and alopecia areata, a condition with no known cure at this time. Children participating in the program are given the hair prostheses free of charge in some cases, and some receive them on a financial sliding scale.

“Our mission,” the Locks of Love website states, “is to return a sense of self, confidence and normalcy to children suffering from hair loss by utilizing donated ponytails to provide the highest quality hair prosthetics to financially disadvantaged children.”

This is the organization for which J.T. wanted to grow his hair and donate a ponytail. The dress code at Madison Academy, however, does not allow for boys to have long hair. Boys’ hair must be “clean, neat, free of unnatural or distracting colors, off the collar, off the ears and out of the eyes,” the student-parent handbook indicates. J.T.’s hair covers his ears and frames his face, reminiscent of a long-gone Beatles look.

J.T.’s mother, Christa Plante, spoke with The Flint Journal, indicating that she will not deny her son the opportunity to do this. “The fact that he’s ready to talk about everything he went through, his strength ... I can’t deny him that. He’s ready to speak out about what he’s been through.”

A petition has been circulating online via Change.org on the matter, pointing out that the dress code allows only girls to have long hair, which means only girls at Madison Academy would be able to donate to Locks of Love:

"Female students can grow and donate their hair, yet boys cannot ... we are simply asking for compromise and to allow not only my son, but anyone wanting to donate to be allowed to do so, to allow the boys the same rights and freedoms as the girl students."

Superintendent Will Kneer indicated to msnbc.com that they are trying to work out a solution for the situation, and a revision of the dress code may be in order.

As of Friday, J.T. had missed four days of school.

“My immediate concern is, what are we going to do for this kid to make sure he doesn’t lapse,” Kneer said. "Personally, my heartfelt desire at this moment is to have that child back in school," he added.

Image: Wikimedia Commons


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I think that the school needs to rethink their actions and concentrate on academic scores in the school, not suspend a kid whose goal is to help Cancer survivors feel good about themselves. Common sense is so uncommon these days.

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