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Today in things that make us scream incoherently

Teen Cancer Survivor Suspended For Wanting To Donate Hair

Yes, it’s true, we have rules in our society for a reason but in my mind at least, there’s times when rules should be bent for the greater good. This is one of those occasions. J.T. Gaskins was recently suspended from his high school. Why? Because the long hair he was growing to donate to Locks of Love violated school policy. Did we mention he’s a cancer survivor himself? Sigh. 

The 17-year-old goes to Madison Academy, a charter school near Flint, Michigan. He told the Detroit News “he decided over the holidays to grow out his hair and donate it to Locks of Love after learning that the sister of a family friend had cancer.”

For those of you who aren’t familiar. Locks of Love is a “public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis,” according to their website. Many years ago I donated my hair to their cause and know several others who have as well.

Gaskins was diagnosed with leukemia as an infant and has been in remission since he was 7. He’s an exemplary student at the school, even recently honored on their “Wall of Fame” for perfect behavior, yet that or his reasons for the hair growth, didn’t make a difference to school officials.

According to Detroit News, “Madison Academy on Friday referred calls to Will Kneer, vice president of Romine Group Inc., in Utica, which manages the school. Kneer told the Associated Press the board has decided to keep its policy for now.”

The report says Kneer “proposed that Gaskins use styling gel, put the hair in cornrows or simply comb it to comply with the rules. ‘I need his hair out of his eyes and off the collar,’ Kneer told the Associated Press. ‘I really want this boy to be back in school. I feel like combing his hair wouldn’t be a big concession … He doesn’t have hair down the middle of his back. It’s an inch over his collar.’”

But that’s obviously a short-term solution to Gaskins’ long-term cause. He’s only at two and a half inches of the ten he needs to donate to Locks of Love. “I’m fine with all of their rules,” said Gaskins. “I just think that with this, they could try to make a compromise.”

Gaskins’ mother, Christa Plante, is behind her son’s decision, as are at least 5,000 others. A petition was drawn up on by Plante asking the school to change it’s boys’ hair policy for donation purposes.

“I fought cancer my entire life. I’m going to keep fighting this,” said Gaskins. “I’m not going to not give back just because my school says no.”

(via Time Healthland, image by Lathan Goumas)


  • Anonymous

    I don’t really want to be that guy but Locks of Love doesn’t really need or probably want his hair:

    “We created this monster because people get so much from it,” said Madonna Coffman, the president of Locks of Love. “They get the attention. They get a warm and fuzzy feeling. They feel they’re going to help a child.”

  • Jill Pantozzi

    Then try not being that guy and instead giving positive comments that will direct people to organizations you feel are deserving of donated hair.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry Jill. Did you read that article? There is much more hair donated than is needed. Like a lot.

    “Perhaps they would be less adamant if they could visit Ms. Coffman in the Locks of Love office in Florida. Every day the hanks of hair arrive, filling some 10 postal bins, representing the best intentions of donors, but so much of it destined for the trash.
    “A check would be easier for me,” Ms. Coffman said. “But would the donors get out of it what they do? No.””

    I am all for donating to Locks of Love. When I read the article, I donated 50 bucks because that is what they need. Money. There a lot of other places that can use cash.

    If I can recommend one, I would recommend Philanthroper. It is a great site. It is like a Groupon or w00t for charity. Every day they have a new charity, give a description and links to the website and financials and ask for 1 dollar. Thats it. 1 dollar. If you don’t like the charity, you don’t have to give anything but, if you do, just send it a buck. It is a wonderful site that more people should know about.

  • Anonymous

    I still wonder what the length of a boys’ hair has to do with his ability (or the ability of others) to learn. Such gender-based arbitrary rules don’t really add anything; I mean, who would it hurt if he did just have long hair for the heck of it? Why is it ok for SuzieQ to have long hair, but a boys’ hair can’t touch his collar?

  • Jill Pantozzi

    Yes, I read the article but your comment adds, what I believe, is only negativity to the topic at hand. The article is not *about* LoL, it’s about a ridiculous school rule when it comes to charity. Perhaps this teen doesn’t have money to give. He has hair, which (as the article you linked points out) LoL sells to raise money as well, so I don’t see why your first thought to comment on the article was to basically trash what this teen was trying to do, and instead talk about how the charity he’s doing it for doesn’t need him to do it. 

    Thank you for the information on the additional outlet, I’m sure people will find it useful. 

  • kamikazeblonde

    I am a little confused.  It appeared as if the school official just wanted his hair out of his face and off his collar and the student was not in compliance with that.  In lieu of that a reasonable workaround should be possible.  Maybe I misunderstood, but I read it as the student not wanting to comb back his hair for the growing process and letting his bangs hang in front of his face, which was a violation of school policy.  A ridiculous, antiquated policy sure but still…isn’t there a rational compromise everyone can agree too?

  • Glenn Buettner

    Well, rules are rules, and if we bend them for some people that would require people to actually use their brains instead of just citing a rulebook.  

  • Jill Pantozzi

    I think the issue was that he could only comb the hair back for so long before it wouldn’t be able to actually do that anymore. Like, he could do that now at two inches but not when it’s 10.

  • kamikazeblonde

    yeah, that made sense, but the suggestion of cornrows would imply that some method of pulling it back and keeping it off the collar should be acceptable, like a ponytail or a bun maybe?

  • Nathania Johnson

    We might not have the whole story here either. My teen son HATES to brush his hair b/c he has sensory issues. And the administrator is saying the kid’s hair is in his eyes, well we can see his eyes in the picture. He doesn’t look unkempt. I love how cornrows are the solution? Seriously?

  • Selkiechick

    Unhelpful suggestion…..
    If he spiked it up into a faux mohawk, that would keep it out of his eyes and off his collar….

  • Elizabeth-Amber Delaney

    Locks of Love will sell hair they don’t need. Considering my recent personal posts have been about my plans to donate my hair again as I did about 4-5 years ago, this caught my attention. I understand school policies but they have to make considerations for people who wear things on their head for religion so why not allow policy flexibility for students doing something for society and/or science?

  • Jason Crumbley

    I went through the long hair thing when I was in High School in a small southern town. It’s ridiculous. 

    There are so many more important things these people should be focusing on. 

  • Alexander K. D’Arata

    Charity or not, limiting the length of boys’ hair is just sexist bullshit.

  • Terence Ng

    True, that did seem odd. Inevitably, he’ll be in a transition period where his hair won’t be long enough to pull back, but too long to keep out of his face. That period always sucked for me. But I can’t see why they care so much if he’ll agree to tie it back when he can, and I don’t see why that hasn’t been made mention on his end. And is the school really going to hold out until maybe a month has passed and his hair can be tied back? How ludicrous it would seem on their end…

    And, as stated before, what’s the school doing about all the shaggy haired girls?

  • Frodo Baggins

    I’ve got long hair, and keeping it out of my eyes hasn’t been a problem at any length.

  • Christine Winckler

    I agree with Alexander. Whether it’s for charity is besides the point. If they don’t tell girls their hair needs to be “off the collar” they have no business saying it to boys. That’s gender policing, and I’m surprised anyone at the Mary Sue would think that’s okay. 

  • E S

    It definitely forces boys into a look that is “socially acceptable” and it really bothers me.

  • Anna B

    Went to an all-girl school from grammar to high school and hair was such a big deal. We were told to wear it out of our eyes, not just with scrunchies, but with headbands. As if a few locks falling into our eyes would hamper learning forever. I detested having to worry about my hair each morning, but I was at the age where it mattered that my hair was long, especially since I didn’t think short hair worked for me.  Don’t even get me started on the Boys’ school. Anyone who tried to grow their hair past their napes met the mean edge of a clipper.

  • K. Johnston

    Why should ridiculous, antiquated policies be compromised with?

    *rebel rebel*

  • stevi ferg

    I’m personally not in favor of strict dress codes in schools (or anywhere, really). But when you choose to go to a charter school, you choose to abide by whatever ridiculous rules they set (if this was his assigned school, that would be a different situation entirely).

    I chose to go to a non-traditional high school, which had it’s own brand of weird rules. I put up with it because it enabled me to get a unique education and stay out of the assembly-line high school I was assigned to.

    That being said, it seems like the school has been flexible and offered him some options for keeping the dress code until his hair is long enough to pull back. He just seems unwilling to deal with a non-traditional hairstyle for awhile. I don’t have a lot of sympathy. If the cause is important enough to him, he’ll make it work.

  • Anonymous

    good article

  • Emily DeKelly

    In some parts of the country charter or private schools are really the only option if you want a certain level of education. Flint, Michigan is not a high income place and their school systems are not as good as other places. So going to a different school from “the one assigned” tends to be more forced in this situation. Case in point, when my parents lived in Florida my sister went to the best private school they could find. When they moved to Massachusetts she was 2 years behind in the public schools. So to be at a level to go to certain colleges you need that other school to even hope to go there.

    Schools always claim that this interferes with education in some way. “oh the hair is in his face therefore he can’t learn” or “its a distraction to others.” And the truth is it never is a problem, its just stupid rules that, in this day and age, really shouldn’t exist. If girls can have the long hair then boys can.

  • Sheila

    He goes to a private school. Private schools have rules. If he doesn’t want to follow them, I’m sure the public school will allow him to grow his hair as long as he wishes. 

  • Sheila

    It’s a private institution. They can make up any stupid rules they want, and when you join, you agree to those rules. That’s how private schooling works. I don’t care if guys have long hair, but I do care when people want to “bend the rules” for special cases and force private institutions to change their rules based on one person or group of people. It sets a bad precedent.

  • Sheila

     I understand school policies but they have to make considerations for people who wear things on their head for religion”

    No they don’t. It’s a PRIVATE school. No one is being forced to go there. You read the rules before you attend, and you sign that you will follow them. Period. If he no longer wants to follow the set rules for whatever reason, he has the right to attend a different school. The school does not have to change its rules unless they choose to do so.

  • Sheila

    Again, because it’s a PRIVATE school and people agree to the rules before they attend. It’s like living in a neighborhood that has a home owner’s association. I think HOA’s are ridiculous therefore I choose not to live with one. This kid chose to attend (or his parents chose for him) a school that has rules that some of us might think are dumb. But they don’t have to change/bend/break the rules for him. They are well within their rights to tell him to cut his hair, suspend him, whatever. It’s a private school, people! This is how it works.

  • Anonymous

    Public schools in my area are just as rigid with their silly dress codes, though. I think the hair thing is in place in all my local middle schools. But it’s crazy not to bend the rules even a little!

    (FYI: HOA’s got their start as a way to keep blacks out of the neighborhood. “Fun” fact. (I don’t live in one, either, for that reason).)

  • Kimberly

    Yep, unfortunately this is the case. This is why so many private schools have the restrictions they do and get away with it. They’re private. They have the right to make whatever rules they see fit, whether the rest of us deem them logical or not. The only real choice one has is not to go to them if they disagree. =/

  • Kifre

    The school handbook specifically forbids male students from wearing their hair in ponytails or pigtails.  Basically, the rule doesn’t exist to keep hair out of the eyes of male students.

    School handbook w/ dresscode can be found here:

  • Kifre

     No.  No he doesn’t go to a private school.  He goes to a ‘tuition free public academy’.  So says the school’s website, available here:

    And it is a ridiculous, gender normative rule which serves no obvious educational purpose, regardless of whether the school is private or public.

  • Kifre

    Ok, I responded below to your incorrect assertion that the school is private.  
    But I’d like to address your point about ‘how private schooling works’. Even private schools can have rules that are arguably or potentially oppressive (I can only imagine what might happen with a transgender teen at the school) and do not serve their stated purpose.  This is one of them.  Often rules change because and event or ‘special case’ draws attention to the fact that they need to be changed.  Students go to private schools to get an education, generally for the consideration of tuition.  It is not some contract of adhesion and rules can be changed.

  • Anonymous

    I just want to comment that it’s a Charter school, which is 
    attended by choice. They have set rules that from what I can gather have been in place for some time now. Yes, it seems like a terrible rule, but it’s a rule none-the-less.

    If I decided one day to start going against a rule, without having at least requested a temporary repeal of the rule FIRST, then this is exactly how I would expect to be treated.

    And really, he’s growing hair. We all do that. Yes, he intends to grow it to at least 10 inches before he donates, but how about instead he volunteer time to help out/visit cancer patients. I’m sure they would like a person to talk to/friend to play games with more than some *more* hair on their head…

    And I say this as my aunt battles melanoma right now and is thinning extremely bad on top.

  • Aaron Ahlquist

    This is the society we’ve grown into. No matter how philanthropic, heroic, or just plain good of a person you are, everyone just ignores the good and only sees the bad. Schools now a days have become little prisons. I remember when I went back to school; I was driving there in heavy traffic, and I saw a dog running along the highway. Without thinking I pulled over, turned on my flashers and chased the dog down the freeway causing traffic to come to a stand still. The dog got hit but got back up. Two motorists helped me out with a box and garden gloves. I got the dog into the box and into my car. I drove him to an animal hospital and footed the $250 bill for him to at least get treatment so he wouldn’t die. I got to school 2 1/2 hours late, and they were unwilling to NOT count me as tardy (there was an attendence requirement) even though I explained what happened. They said even if I saved a humans life they would count me as tardy..