WILSON COUNTY, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/CNN) – A Texas girl is diagnosed with a disease that requires undergoing chemotherapy and dialysis — threatening her full head of curly red hair. But when her teenage brother stepped in to grow his hair out, in case his little sister needs a wig, things got complicated at school.
Ultimately, Newt Johnson had to choose between helping his sister or abiding by his high school’s policy on hair styles. He chose family.
Newt’s sister, 11-year-old Maggie, has Wegener’s Disease — an auto immune disease that affects the kidneys. But with her treatment came side effects. “Some spots in my hair like has [sic] came out,” she said. “like, just like, started falling out.”
Newt started growing out his hair for Locks of Love, which his family says requires the length to be between eight and 14 inches before being cut for donation. The problem is the hair policy for boys in the Poth Independent School District states that a boy’s hair length can’t be longer than the shoulder length. “It’s got to be above the ears,” Newt said.
The teen was told he couldn’t return to class, after the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend, unless it was cut.
After speaking with his parents Newt elected to leave the Poth ISD and start home schooling — with his full head of hair. His dad, Alan Johnson, siad, “Pick your battles, you know. If it’s something you believe in, you just, just have to go for it.”
Months before, shortly after Maggie was diagnosed, the Poth ISD rallied behind the young girl, even putting on fundraisers (that raised several thousand dollars) to help her family with medical costs.
After Newt was told he couldn’t stay on campus with his hair that long his mother met with Poth ISD officials who explained taht all enrollees were given a student handbook — that included hair policies — at the beginning of the school year. When the principal wouldn’t deviate from the policy she left with her son.
PISD officials say they offered Newt’s parents an opportunity to meet with school district officials to formally discuss their concerns with the dress code, but they declined.
Poth is about 40 miles southeast of San Antonio.