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26 Mar, 2014 01:21

School reverses suspension of student who shaved her head for friend with cancer

School reverses suspension of student who shaved her head for friend with cancer

A Colorado school reversed its decision to suspend a 9-year-old student for shaving her head on Tuesday. Kamryn Renfro had lost her locks in support of her friend Delaney Clements, who lost her hair during chemotherapy treatments for cancer.

“I was really excited I would have somebody to support me and I wouldn’t be alone with people always laughing at me. I would at least have somebody to go through it all,” Clements told KDVR.

"It makes me sad because she was really happy to go back to school and show people what she did, but now that she didn't get to, she's kind of sad.”

But Caprock Academy, where Renfro attends school, has a dress code that specifically prohibits shaved heads for girls. The dress code also states that “radical changes in hair color during the school year are unacceptable.” School officials told Renfro’s parents, who had e-mailed the school to explain their daughter’s new style, that the Grand Junction student could not return to school without a wig or until her natural hair grew back. The dress code also prohibits wearing bandanas and hats.

"It felt like the right thing to do," Renfro told KUSA about supporting the 11-year-old Clements. Clements is battling neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer.

Clements’ mother, Wendy Campbell, applauded Renfro’s decision. "For a little girl to be really brave and want to shave her head in support of her friend, I thought that was a huge statement and it builds character in a child," she said.

Tim Kenny, co-founder of St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which raises money to find cures for childhood cancer through head-shaving fundraisers, blasted the charter school’s initial decision. “The whole reason we chose head shaving was to be in solidarity with kids who are going through treatment. I can’t believe people could miss the point like this.”

Campbell also condemned the decision. "I didn't realize that hair was such an important aspect of a child at school," she said.

But the school had defended its decision not to let Renfro attend with a shaved head. "Caprock Academy does have a detailed dress code policy, which was created to promote safety, uniformity, and a non-distracting environment for the school's students. Under this policy, shaved heads are not permitted," said Catherine Norton Breman, President and Chair of Caprock Academy Board of Directors.

She added that exceptions could be made “under exigent and extraordinary circumstances.”

On Tuesday, Caprock allowed Renfro to return to class, and school officials will hold an executive session Tuesday night to discuss the policy.

“She got up, got ready, and held her head high as she walked into her classroom this morning. To say her dad and I are proud, is a total understatement,” Renfro’s mother said on Facebook.

St. Baldrick's CEO Kathleen Ruddy hoped that the outcry over the school’s initial decision will lead to a “teachable moment” for schools around the country. “We believe that bald is beautiful, and we believe Kamryn Renfro is beautiful for standing by her friend," Ruddy said.

"Childhood cancer is out of the closet, and it is a reality that we have to face that cancer is not going away anytime soon. It’s the right thing to do to celebrate kids who are standing up for their friends.”

Renfro’s mother, Jamie Olson Renfro, says she understands the school’s initial reaction. “At no point during this ordeal was Kamryn's school not supportive of her decision, nor show compassion...they just made a decision to enforce their dress code, which we were asking to be changed,” she wrote in a Facebook post.

“They responded to all of our requests, and have treated us with nothing but respect the whole time.“