Young Cancer Survivor Is Suspended From School for Growing Hair for Charity

haircutI always thought schools were created to make parents' lives easier. They're there to educate our kids for cripe's sake. But I'm scratching my head this week at administrators at one Michigan high school, who suspended a 17-year-old cancer survivor for the "crime" of being too darn philanthropic.

OK, so technically JT Gaskins was punished for violating his school's policy over the length of boys' hair. But wait until you get a load of WHY he was growing out his long locks.


After surviving a bout with leukemia himself, Gaskins heard a sister of a pal had cancer. So he decided he'd grow out his hair in her honor and donate it to Locks of Love, a non-profit charity that fashions wigs for children who have suffered hair loss due to a medical condition -- usually cancer (although they also help kids with issues such as alopecia). As he told the Detroit News, he's spent his childhood fighting cancer, this is just another way he can keep up the good fight.

That's the kind of kid who makes my heart sing! So what kind of school administrator hears this kind of story and says, "Sorry dude, rules are rules, we're going to uphold your suspension"? The kind that's not big on raising kids to be "part of the solution."

And JT's story, sadly, is not a rarity. We get one of these hair/charity stories every few months. And then there are the girls punished last fall because their attempts to raise money for a breast cancer charity didn't fare well on their principal's prude-o-meter. Whatever happened to encouraging kids to make a difference?

Remember when you were in high school, and they'd gather us all in the gym or the cafeteria for another one of those rah, rah, let's be great, let's be grand, there's no I in team lectures? They were all about raising us to be leaders, to fix the world, to be the change we want to be in the world, and all that jazz.

Kids trying to do what they're encouraged to by their parents and teachers often find themselves kneecapped by school administrators who refuse to acknowledge that words don't mean as much as action. There's no use encouraging kids to try, if you're not going to support their efforts.

There IS room to make accommodations for kids who are doing something good for the world. In Gaskins' town, it could be as simple as a proposal (being made by students right now) that kids who want to grow their hair for a charity be allowed only if they sign a special promissory note that accepts they actually have to carry through with their plan to donate. I think other school administrators could find similar set-ups work in their community too, if they'd just be willing to try.

Has your child's school discouraged kids from actually getting involved in charitable work?


Image via Jean Pichot/Flickr

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