School faces backlash after forcing 16-year-old to cut hair: ‘It really stressed me out’

Dillon Thompson
In The Know

A Texas teen has withdrawn from his high school after administrators asked him to cut his hair.

Newt Johnson, a 16-year-old from Poth, a suburb of San Antonio, began growing his hair out after his 11-year-old sister, Maggie, was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, WOAI-TV reported.

The condition, called Wegener’s disease, caused Maggie to undergo chemotherapy and dialysis — and lose large portions of her hair. Newt decided to grow his hair out so it could be turned into a wig for his sister.

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But that decision came with a major consequence. According to CNN, Poth High School, Newt’s former school, has a policy that forbids boys’ hair from growing "beyond the ear opening on the sides nor beyond the top of a dress shirt collar in the back."

Newt told WOAI-TV that despite his reasoning, school administrators told him the week before Martin Luther King Jr. Day that if his hair "wasn’t cut by Monday then [he] couldn’t come back to school."

"It really stressed me out because I [was] already worried about my sister," he told the outlet. "It made me feel good that I could do something for her."

But the teenager stuck to his guns. He dropped out of Poth High and began homeschooling while continuing to grow his hair.

"I don’t understand why he has to get in trouble for doing this for me," Maggie told WOAI-TV.

But according to Poth High administrators, Newt would not have been expelled if he refused to comply.

Paula Renken, the district’s superintendent, told CNN that the teen "would not have been denied his education." She added that Newt likely would have received detention or in-school suspension, rather than any larger punishment or expulsion.

"It was never about not supporting a sick child," Renken told CNN. "[Todd Deaver, the school’s principal] performed his duties as he is expected to under the policies and procedures in place."

Additionally, the Poth Independent School District has been actively supportive of Maggie since she was first diagnosed in October 2019. The district has posted on Facebook about the 11-year-old and reportedly raised more than $3,000 to help with her hospital bills.

Despite that help, Alan Johnson, Newt’s father, said he was supportive of his son’s decision to leave the school.

"Listen to your kids, if they really believe in something, even if it does go against the rules, sometimes you just have to dig deep [to] see if it’s really worth it or not," he told WOAI-TV. "It’s worth it."

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