The idea of instituting a dress code at any given school has long been debated. Although there are legitimate points to be made on both sides of that argument, I think we can all agree that a dress code has gone too far when a leukemia survivor who wanted to grow his hair out to help other cancer patients is suspended because of it.
Yet that is exactly what happened at Madison Academy, a charter school in the Flint, Mich., area. J.T. Gaskins, who is 17 and survived being diagnosed with leukemia as an infant, decided he wanted to grow his hair out so he could donate it to Locks of Love, an organization that specializes in creating wigs for anyone who has lost their hair due to illness or the treatment of an illness.
However, Madison’s dress code includes a section on hair for boys which stipulates that hair must be kept, among other things, short enough that it doesn’t reach the top of their shoulders. Gaskins’ hair doesn’t meet this requirement.
I understand that students have all signed the agreement to abide by the dress code at Madison Academy, so Gaskins is technically in the wrong here. But Madison’s handling of the situation leaves quite a bit to be desired.
There’s no nuance in Madison’s ruling. They asked Gaskins to change his hair such that it wasn’t in violation of the policy. He refused. I personally think that once he explained why he was growing his hair out, the school should have backed off or at least worked harder to facilitate a compromise.
Gaskins has asked that the school institute a new policy that applies only to students planning to donate their hair that would allow them free reign over their hair as long as they keep it clean.
Madison Academy has adamantly refused, insisting that the dress code cannot change, thus Gaskins’ hair must. The online petition that Gaskins started to convince Madison Academy to change its policy has over 38,500 signatures, so it’s not like Gaskins is alone in his viewpoint.
Also, suspending a student for a dress code violation seems harsh to begin with, and the fact that the violation is as minor as having hair that is slightly too long makes it even more unnecessary. Add Gaskins’ status as a cancer survivor and his intention to donate the hair, and the whole situation goes from unnecessary to absolutely absurd.
Madison Academy needs to get over itself and its antiquated ideals of what male students should look like and figure something out that makes them look like they actually care about cancer patients and their families.
Because God forbid students be allowed to do good in the world if it interferes with the dress code.