School disciplines teen cancer survivor for wearing hat to cover hair loss: Reports

An Iowa teen who recently beat cancer said her high school reprimanded her for wearing a hat.

The Hawk Eye reported that Chloe Terpenning, 15, was diagnosed with stage II Hodgkin’s lymphoma in March and lost her hip-length hair shortly after undergoing chemotherapy. Now in remission, the West Burlington High School freshman claimed she had to sit in the office for several days last week for wearing a beanie specifically made for cancer patients.

Terpenning said the principal sent her to the office last week upon seeing her wearing a hat; the next day a math teacher sent her to the office for wearing a hood.

“In the office, it is a very small room and I don’t get any lessons in there. I just get the assignments and am expected to have them done the next day. And the door’s wide open,” the teen said. “So anyone who walks by can see me sitting in there.”

According to the newspaper, school policy states that the following are banned on the premises: “Hats, caps, HOODS [sic], sunglasses, hairnets, head scarves, headbands (other than those worn by females to hold back hair) and other headgear.”

However, Terpenning said she received permission to wear some form of headgear earlier this year when her mother had a conversation with one school administrator.

The teen said school officials recently told her she could only wear a bandanna or kerchief until Christmas Break and, after that, she is to wear a wig or nothing on her head, otherwise she will be required “to sit in the office again until [she’s] ready.”

The teen told The Hawk Eye that she transferred to her current school due to bullying from classmates. She noted that she moved away from wearing wigs after noticing that they were hindering her natural hair growth, causing her headaches, and interfering with gym activities.

“I was constantly harassed, threatened and bullied because of my hair,” Terpenning said of her previous high school.

The teen has since petitioned for a change in policy and reportedly received 222 signatures in person and another 103 online.

On Monday, the West Burlington School District apologized to Terpenning for the way officials treated her last week.

“West Burlington Independent School District apologizes to Chloe for our insensitive approach to dealing with her hair loss,” Superintendent David Schmitt said in a statement sent to The Hawk Eye.

“It was an error of judgment on our part and we regret making this mistake. The school district has taken action to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We hope Chloe will accept our apology and be able to move forward.”

Schmitt said the freshman will be allowed to wear whatever headgear makes her feel comfortable. The teen, her mother, and the superintendent will also meet Friday to further discuss the matter.


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