The mother of a cancer survivor who was suspended from school in Michigan for trying to grow his hair long for a charity was "shocked" by the school's statement that her son could come back to school if he "simply styles it differently."
"It makes no sense," Christa Plante told ABCNews.com today. "I've been begging for a ponytail and for them to let him slick it back. That was the first thing we brought to the school because that's obviously a no-brainer. But the answer was just a flat-out no to everything."
Plante's son, J.T. Haskins, 17, has been growing his hair for Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hair pieces for children who lose their hair for medical reasons. But long hair evidently conflicted with school rules.
In a statement earlier today, the Madison Academy claimed that Plante had not wanted to cooperate with a compromise it was willing to make.
"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."
The school planned a news conference for Wednesday evening to address the matter, but Plante said she did not know about the news conference until a local reporter called her to ask if she was going.
"I had a feeling they didn't want us there," Plante said. "They're refusing to meet with us. We've been begging to meet in private, behind closed doors."
Members of the school board finally agreed to meet with Plante, she said, 45 minutes before the scheduled news conference.
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 it would reconsider.
Plante pleaded the case and presented the school with different suggestions for how to keep the situation in control, such as proposing Gaskins would pull his hair back in a ponytail or the school could come up with a donation clause so that other boys could not take advantage of a potential loophole in the rules on hair length.
"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 today.
As of Monday, Gaskins had been out of school for two weeks.
"I really never thought we would be here," Plante told ABCNews.com.
She was "dumbfounded" when her son's school board upheld a decision to keep him out of school and said 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.
"He's done his research. He knows what he wants and why. I'm very proud of him," Plante told ABCNews.com. "He's fought for all these years and I think he deserves a little exception."
Plante said her son wanted to donate hair because 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.
Plante started a petition on Change.org for supporters to send letters to her son's school and the school board. The petition had 3,000 signatures on Monday and more than 51,000 as of today.
Gaskins' teachers have been sending his work home so that he doesn't fall behind and Plante makes sure that every day is as much like school as possible. He gets up early, does his work and is not allowed to watch TV or use his cell phone during school hours.