Middle School Principal in Iowa Shaves Head to Support Bullied Student

The student had shaved his head for his grandpa battling cancer.

January 12, 2017, 3:36 PM

— -- The principal of Pekin Middle School in Packwood, Iowa, recently shaved his head in front of the school's students to support a child who was bullied after shaving his own head.

The child -- Jackson Johnston, a sixth-grade student at the school -- had shaved his head this past weekend as a show of solidarity and support for his grandfather who has been battling cancer.

The 11-year-old knew that his "Papa" had been feeling a bit down since his hair "started getting thin and patchy from chemotherapy treatments," according to Jackson's mother, Amber Johnston.

To help lift Papa's spirits and show that he was not alone, Jackson decided to shave his head, Johnston told ABC News today. Jackson surprised Papa with the new haircut this past Sunday, she said.

PHOTO: Jackson Johnston (top right), 11, is pictured together here with his grandfather, Rick Wilkerson (top left), 58, in a handout family photograph.
Jackson Johnston (top right), 11, is pictured together here with his grandfather, Rick Wilkerson (top left), 58, in a handout family photograph.

"He took off his cap and said, 'Hey, Papa! I thought we could start a new club together!" Johnston said. "It was really moving. Papa was just so overcome with emotion and touched that Jackson would do something like that for him."

Jackson spent the rest of day feeling "pumped up, proud and excited." But the following morning at school, he was disheartened after several kids made fun of his shaved head, Johnston said.

A few students teased Jackson, calling him names like "Bald Boy" and asking him things like, "Why would you want to cut your hair like a cancer patient?" his mother said.

After Pekin Middle School principal Tim Hadley found out, he said he wanted to figure out a way to "use this and turn it into a life lesson rather than just having a one-time conversation."

So the following morning, Hadley held an impromptu school assembly during which he asked Jackson to shave off all the hair on his head.

A video showing the gesture of support has garnered more than 84,000 views on Facebook as of this afternoon.

"My big goal wasn't the act of shaving, but rather, I wanted to show the kids that it's important to stand up for each other and support one another," Hadley told ABC News.

The principal said he also led a dialogue after the event, where he explained the weight that the words we use can carry.

"I said, 'Let's think about it. Are my words going to build others up, or take them down?'" Hadley said. "And I said, 'I hope all of you choose to build.'"

Ever since the assembly, Johnston said her son has received "a lot of words of kindness and support," and a few of the students who had teased him "have actually apologized and told him they actually liked his haircut."

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