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Michigan Teen Cancer Survivor Suspended for Locks of Love Participation

January 30, 2012

Michigan makes national news under a rather grossly discriminating ruling regarding the suspension of a childhood leukemia survivor, J.T. Gaskins,  who is growing his hair to donate to other cancer survivors:

Gaskins was diagnosed with Infant Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a high-risk form of leukemia in children, when he was 8 weeks old. He underwent nearly five years of chemotherapy and his family celebrated him being cancer-free in December 2003.

Locks of Love Become Lots of Trouble

Over the holidays, Gaskins was touched by a family friend who was battling cancer and decided he wanted to give back by donating his hair. But when his hair grew over his ears and started getting in his eyes, his school demanded he cut it.

Gaskins refused and was suspended.

Even when the family met with the school board, Gaskins suspension remained unchanged:

After his first three days of suspension, Gaskins and Plante met with the school board to see if they would reconsider. Plante pleaded their case and presented the school with different suggestions for how to keep the situation in control such as saying that they would pull Gaskins’ hair back in a ponytail or coming up with a donation clause so that other boys could not take advantage of a potential loophole in the rules.

“We had so many different ideas, but when we were done, it was a five minute decision,” Plante said. “They said, ‘We appreciate what you’ve been through, but we’re sticking to policy.'”

The school’s rules say that, “Hair must be clean, neat, free of unnatural or distracting colors, off the collar, off the ears and out of the eyes” for boys.

“The girl sitting next to him can grow her hair and donate and yet you’re looking at your boy students and saying, ‘We’re going to kick you out for doing the exact same thing,'” Plante said.

Plante started a petition on for supporters to send letters to her son’s school and the school board. The petition already has more than 3,000 signatures and dozens of comments supporting Gaskins’ goal.

So, is it a form of discrimination to suspend a boy who won’t cut his hair when girls can grow their hair as long as they want?  Yes, but will a town in Michigan acknowledge that? Not likely.




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