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Texas teen torn between donating hair to sick sister and school dress code

16-year-old Newt Johnson is growing out his hair to make a wig for his sister, but is now having to choose between his education and his family.

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16-year-old Newt Johnson with his 11-year-old sister Maggie. Maggie has a rare auto immune disorder called Wegener’s Disease.

16-year-old Newt Johnson with his 11-year-old sister Maggie. Maggie has a rare auto immune disorder called Wegener’s disease.

HLN/KABB

Maggie Johnson was only in the fifth grade when she was diagnosed with Wegener’s disease, a rare autoimmune disease that affects her kidneys. The disease forced her to drop out of school to undergo chemotherapy and dialysis treatments, CNN reports.

When Maggie was diagnosed back in October 2019, the Poth Independent School District posted on Facebook to show its support. The post encouraged the people of Poth, Texas, to pray for Maggie and offered the option to donate to the Johnson family at high school football games in the district and at the district’s administration offices.

But the school district’s support doesn’t mean they’ll make exceptions to the rules, Maggie’s 16-year-old brother, Newt, is now discovering.

Since Maggie began chemotherapy, her long, curly, red hair has begun falling out. So, after she offhandedly complimented her brother’s hair, Newt began to grow his locks out to donate to her for a wig, reports WOAI/KABB.

In order to make a wig, Newt has to grow his hair 8 to 14 inches long before he can donate it, WIFR reports.

But, according to CNN, Poth High School’s dress code policy stands in his way, as it mandates male students can’t have hair “beyond the ear opening on the sides nor beyond the top of a dress shirt collar in the back.”

In December, the school’s principal gave Newt an ultimatum — he had to cut his hair by Jan. 21 or he wouldn’t be allowed back in the school, WAAY-TV reports.

Newt chose to withdraw from school and continue his education at home rather than break his promise to his sister.

His parents support him in that decision, CNN reports.

“Listen to your kids, if they really believe in something, even if it does go against the rules,” Alan Johnson, Newt and Maggie’s father told CNN. “It’s worth it.”

The superintendent of Poth Independent School District, Paula Renken, took to Facebook to defend the dress code, saying that the principal was just following district policies.

She said he offered to meet with the Johnson parents and discuss the dress code but they declined.

Additionally, Renken said the decision was “never about not supporting a sick child,” pointing to the fact that the school has previously showed their support for Maggie by raising more than $3,000 in donations for her medical expenses.