School Suspends Cancer Survivor J.T. Gaskins; Growing Hair for Charity

| by Michael Allen

17-year-old leukemia survivor J.T. Gaskins decided over the holidays to grow out his hair and donate it to the charity 'Locks of Love' after learning that the sister of a family friend had cancer.

Gaskins said his hair has to be at least 10 inches long in a ponytail for the donation. Right now, it's about 2 1/2 inches.

However, officials at the public Madison Academy in Burton, Michigan ruled on Monday that Gaskins' hairstyle had violated school policy and he was suspended.

Despite his suspension, Gaskins isn't planning to cut his hair: "I fought cancer my entire life. I'm going to keep fighting this. I'm not going to not give back just because my school says no."

Gaskins' mother, Christa Plante, supports her son's effort and launched a petition on asking the school to change its hair policy for boys to allow them to grow it for a charity donation.

Plante said her son has been assisted by charities over the years, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation: "He's seen how it works and how it helped people, how it helped us. This is for him. He wants to do it now. This feels right."

So far, the online petition, addressed to the academy and its school board, had more than 3,000 signatures.

Madison Academy referred calls to Will Kneer, vice president of Romine Group Inc., in Utica, Michigan, which manages the school. Kneer told the Associated Press: "I need his hair out of his eyes and off the collar. 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."

Lauren Kukkamaa, communications director for Locks of Love: "There are so many ways to support Locks of Love, and we are truly grateful for all of those efforts and this young man and his desire to give back. But certainly, we understand the school has its reasons for having certain policies in place."

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