POTH, Texas (Gray News) - A 16-year-old in Texas, who is growing his hair out for his sick younger sister, decided to be home-schooled after his high school threatened to suspend him for his hair length.
Newt Johnson, 16, started growing his hair in case his 11-year-old sister, Maggie Johnson, needs a wig. She was recently diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the blood vessels and began losing her hair from chemotherapy and dialysis treatments, WOAI/KABB reports.
"Some spots of my hair has came out, just started falling out," Maggie said. “He's growing out his hair in case I need a wig."
Newt Johnson’s hair has to be eight to 14 inches in length before he can donate it to his sister through the nonprofit Locks of Love.
But in December, the principal of Poth High School told Newt Johnson he would have to get a haircut. The district’s hair policy for boys says their hair can’t fall “beyond the ear opening on the sides nor beyond the top of a dress shirt collar in the back,” according to CNN.
“It really stressed me out because I already worried about my sister,” Newt Johnson told WOAI/KABB. “It made me feel good that I could do something for her.”
Newt Johnson refused to cut his hair. He talked to his parents and decided to withdraw from his school in January, choosing instead to be home-schooled.
“I was proud. They know to be respectful and kind, but if they have a thought they believe in… they can put their foot down and stand up for it,” said the children’s father, Alan Johnson.
If the 16-year-old had returned to school with his hair uncut, Poth Independent School District Superintendent Paula Renken says he would have been assigned in-school suspension or after-school detention, CNN reports.
Newt Johnson’s parents had the opportunity to speak with Renken and “seek resolution to the issue” but chose not to, according to a statement by Renken posted on the district’s Facebook page. The post has since been deleted.
"It was never about not supporting a sick child," wrote Renken in her statement.
The district has raised over $3,000 to help the Johnson family with hospital expenses.
Maggie had to leave school in October, due to her severe nausea and headaches, according to WOAI/KABB. She is diagnosed with granulomatosis with polyangiitis, formerly known as Wegener's disease, which has affected her kidneys.
GPA is a chronic disease that affects an estimated 3 out of every 100,000 people. Its onset is usually between 40 and 65 years of age, but it does, rarely, occur in children. There is no cure, but early diagnosis and effective treatment can bring the disease into remission, according to the Vasculitis Foundation.