(FLINT, Mich.) — Seventeen-year-old J.T. Gaskins woke up early Monday morning and got ready for school like all of his classmates, but instead of going to his Michigan high school, he settled in for what will be his second week of spending the school day working from home.
Gaskins was suspended from Madison Academy for having hair that did not comply with the school’s rules for how long boys can grow their hair. But Gaskins is sporting the shaggy hairdo for a very specific reason: As a leukemia survivor, he is determined to donate his hair to Locks of Love.
“I really never thought we would be here,” his mother Christa Plante told ABC News. She was “dumbfounded” when her son’s school board upheld a decision to keep him out of school and says she is “very much” concerned about him missing part of his senior year of high school.
The school board did not respond to a request for comment.
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.
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.
“He’s done his research. He knows what he wants and why. I’m very proud of him,” Plante told ABC News. “He’s fought for all these years and I think he deserves a little exception.”
Plante said her son wants to donate hair now since he will be turning 18 and graduating soon and this will be his last year of pediatric cancer check-ups, which he has gone through every year of his life.
“He’s celebrating his life and now he wants to give back so that other kids can have an opportunity to celebrate theirs too,” she said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio