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Wednesday
Feb012012

Suspended Locks of Love Teen Can Return, School Says

WJRT-TV(DETROIT) -- The Michigan school that suspended a 17-year-old cancer survivor trying to grow his hair long for Locks of Love brushed off the controversy Wednesday and said J.T. Gaskins can come back to school.

The Madison Academy said it will put up with Gaskins' long hair if he "simply styles it differently," but the school's statement appears to contradict comments by the boy's mother.

"We want J.T. back in school, so we offered him and his mother several solutions, including the option that he can continue to grow his hair out if he simply styles it differently so that it's out of his eyes and ears and off his collar," the Madison Academy said in a statement. "So the reports that we're demanding he cut his hair are simply not true. To date, he and his mother have not agreed to any of these options."

Christa Plante, Gaskins' mother, did not immediately respond to request for comment, but in an interview with ABC News on Monday, she told a conflicting story. Plante said that after her son's first three days of suspension more than two weeks ago, they met with the school board to see if they would reconsider.

Plante pleaded their case and presented the school with different suggestions for how to keep the situation in control such as saying that they would pull Gaskins' hair back in a ponytail or coming up with a donation clause so that other boys could not take advantage of a potential loophole in the rules.

"We had so many different ideas, but when we were done, it was a five minute decision," Plante said. "They said, 'We appreciate what you've been through, but we're sticking to policy.'"

The school board did not respond to a request for comment.

As of Monday, Gaskins had been out of school for two weeks.

"I really never thought we would be here," Plante told ABC News. She was "dumbfounded" when her son's school board upheld a decision to keep him out of school and says she is "very much" concerned about him missing part of his senior year of high school.

Gaskins was diagnosed with Infant Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a high-risk form of leukemia in children, when he was 8 weeks old. He underwent nearly five years of chemotherapy and his family celebrated him being cancer-free in December 2003.

Over the holidays, Gaskins was touched by a family friend who was battling cancer and decided he wanted to give back by donating his hair. But when his hair grew over his ears and started getting in his eyes, his school demanded he cut it.

Gaskins refused and was suspended.

Plante said her son wants to donate hair now since he will be turning 18 and graduating soon and this will be his last year of pediatric cancer check-ups, which he has gone through every year of his life.

"He's celebrating his life and now he wants to give back so that other kids can have an opportunity to celebrate theirs too," she said.  

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ABC News Radio