(CANTON, Ohio) — Zachary Aufderheide has run afoul of his Ohio high school’s dress code because of his desire to grow his hair long enough to donate it to Locks of Love, an organization that provides wigs to needy children who’ve lost their hair because of medical problems.
Zachary, 17, of Canton is about an inch away from the 10 inches of hair he needs to donate to the organization. Faced with an ultimatum, the Canton South High School junior decided to accept an in-school suspension rather than cut his ponytail.
The minimum length of hair needed for a hairpiece is 10 inches, according the Locks of Love website.
Zachary said he is passionate about donating hair to the organization because he was picked on as a child and now wants to help sick children who might have lost their hair avoid the feelings he experienced when he was teased.
“I was picked on so I know where they’re coming from, I know how they feel so I sort of sympathize with them because I’ve been there,” he said Monday.
Zachary’s mother, Robin, said she understood and respected the school’s dress code, but wanted officials to make an exception in her son’s case.
She said her son went to a school board meeting in September, explained what he was doing and asked them to consider allowing him to reach his goal.
She said board members came up to him after the meeting and commended his efforts, but said the board had voted to uphold the school’s dress code, without giving him an explanation.
The school’s principal told her son he had until Monday to get his hair cut, she said.
“And we didn’t do it. We didn’t do it. I measured it and he’s got, oh, less than an inch to grow …,” she said.
The school’s principal, Todd Osborn, has not replied to requests for comment placed by ABC News as of this writing.
Robin Aufderheide said she was surprised by the board’s decision, but her son wasn’t.
“I feel pretty disappointed with their decision because, honestly, I really put a lot of heart and soul into my demonstration, like, my presentation of the idea to them, and then when they just all unanimously voted against it … it was just kind of heartbreaking to me,” he said.
According to the dress code in the Canton Local School District’s student handbook, “Hair for male students shall be neat and clean and shall not be worn covering the eyes, in a ponytail, or extending beyond the bottom of the regular shirt collar.”
Zachary isn’t sure what will happen after the two-day suspension ends, but says if he cut his hair before reaching his goal, “then, personally, that would be admitting defeat to them. It would be meaning that I would just give up on what I view as important to myself. So this is more or less like a battle of my morals and my values, really.”
After he donates his hair, he said, he’ll be happy to maintain it at regulation length.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Madison Park, Keith Allen and Andreas Preuss, CNN