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Teen Steps Up to Help Sick Sister, Gets in Trouble at School

Newt Johnson told he's violating district's dress code
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 10, 2020 7:57 AM CST
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(Newser) – Maggie Johnson, 11, was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease in October, requiring her to undergo chemo and dialysis that started making her curly red hair fall out, per WOAI. Her big brother, 16-year-old Newt, decided to do something special for her—and now his family says he's been forced to drop out of school because of it. CNN reports Newt's hair has been gaining inches as he grows it out to donate to Locks of Love so the group can make a wig out of it for Maggie, who has Wegener's disease (aka granulomatosis with polyangiitis), which is causing inflammation in her kidneys. However, Newt was told before winter break he was violating the dress code at his high school in Poth, Texas—male students' hair can't reach "beyond the ear opening on the sides nor beyond the top of a dress shirt collar in the back," per its handbook—and was given until Jan. 21 to chop it off.

But Locks of Love needs donors to hand over between 8 and 14 inches, and Newt wasn't done growing his—so he dropped out and is now being homeschooled. "I don't understand why he has to get in trouble for doing this for me," Maggie says. Per Poth Independent School District Superintendent Paula Renken, Newt's mom, after meeting with the school's principal, was offered a chance to talk to Renken, which Renken says she declined. In a statement, Renken adds the community helped raise $3,000 for the family, and that district staff and students wrote cards. "It was never about not supporting a sick child," Renken says. Newt's dad tells WOAI he's proud of his son, noting his kids "know to be respectful and kind, but if they have a thought they believe in ... they can put their foot down and stand up for it." Newt, meanwhile, has plans to now help other people who are dealing with hair loss. (Read more hair stories.)

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