After learning a family friend's sister had been diagnosed with cancer, 17-year-old leukemia survivor J.T. Gaskins decided to grow out his hair for Locks of Love, a non-profit that uses donated hair to provide hairpieces to lower income children with long-term medical hair loss caused by cancer and other diseases.
But administrators at the Madison Academy, where Gaskin attends high school near Flint, Mich., ruled that his long hair was in violation of the school's dress code policy and, as a result, handed him an out-of-school suspension, the Detroit News reports.
Despite the punishment, Gaskin told the paper he has no plans to stop growing his hair in preparation for a donation.
"I fought cancer my entire life. I'm going to keep fighting this," Gaskin told the Detroit News. "I'm not going to not give back just because my school says no."
According to the Flint Journal, Gaskin feels "very strongly" about his mission, since wigs are expensive and the real hair Locks of Love uses in their hairpieces boosts cancer patients' spirits.
"Self confidence is really what you need to beat the disease," he told the paper.
Gaskin's mother, Christa Plante, told the Detroit News it's only natural that her son would want to help organizations like Locks of Love; they helped him during his fight with cancer, and now he wants to give back.
"He's seen how it works and how it helped people, how it helped us," she told the paper. "This is for him. He wants to do it now. This feels right."
On Monday, Plante launched a campaign on Change.org, in an effort to reverse the school board's decision.
In the petition text, Plante suggests the school's policy on hair length be amended.
Plante also notes that she and her son tried to work with the school, offering to have his hair cut as soon as it reached the proper length for donation and return with a certificate proving the donation was made. According to Plante, the board still refused.
Plante also points out that female students are able to grow their hair out in order to make a donation to Locks of Love, while male students cannot.
Commenter Kathy Federico expressed her outrage at the school's decision on the petition page.
"We read about young people doing horrible things for no reason at all," Federico wrote. "Here is a young man wishing to help other people though an act of love and he's being punished for doing it?"
The petition has garnered 3,311 signatures so far.