Cancer survivor Chloe Terpenning disciplined for wearing hat at School
The School’s policy states hats aren’t allowed and the 15-year-old student has started a petition to change the school’s dress code policy.
Chloe Terpenning’s hair used to fall past her hips, but it began to fall out shortly after she began chemotherapy for stage two Hodgkin’s lymphoma in March. Now in remission, the West Burlington High School freshman hopes to encourage the school to change it’s policy to allow for leeway when it comes to head gear for current and future students with cancer.
Terpenning, 15, started a petition to change the school’s dress code policy Friday after having spent several days in the office for wearing a grey, knit beanie made especially for cancer patients.
As of Sunday, Terpenning had obtained 222 signatures on a hard copy petition and another 103 signatures through an online petition on thepetitionsite.com.The school’s policy states the following are considered inappropriate to be worn to school: “Hats, caps, HOODS (sic), sunglasses, hairnets, head scarves, headbands (other than those worn by females to hold back hair) and other headgear.”
When asked Monday about exceptions to the policy, Superintendent David Schmitt said the district will leave it open-ended so each student can be considered on a case-by-case basis and that Terpenning can wear a hat if she feels more comfortable doing so.
That was not the case last week, however, when, wearing the knitted beanie, she didn’t make it far past the school doors before Principal Bruce Snodgrass stopped her and sent her to the office, where she had to remain the rest of the day.
“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,” she said. “So anyone who walks by can see me sitting in there.”
She continued to wear the hat and spend the day in the office for the rest of the week.
She was told she could wear only a bandana or kerchief until Christmas break, but that when she returns, she can wear either a wig atop or head or nothing, “or else I have to sit in the office again until I’m ready,” Terpenning said.
“And they compared it to a bad haircut,” her mother, Candice Osslund, added.It wasn’t the first time Terpenning and school administrators butted heads over head gear.
On Nov. 30, she came to school without her usual wig, her natural hair instead peaking out from beneath a hood on her sweatshirt without incident.She did the same thing the next day and was sent to the office by her math teacher. Terpenning said Principal Bruce Snodgrass told her she either needed to remove the hood or go home because it was against school policy — despite having obtained permission to wear some kind of head gear at the beginning of the year after a conversation she and her mother had with Associated Principal Mike Jones — so she called her stepfather, Brian Owens, to come pick her up.
Osslund and Terpenning said the two administrators have told Terpenning she needs to take baby steps and set goals in acclimating to life with short hair. They also said Jones and Snodgrass seem to be trying to set those goals for her.
Osslund wants them instead to do what they can to make her daughter comfortable while she gets an education, which means letting her go to class wearing what makes her comfortable.The move away from wigs has been a big step for Terpenning, who transferred to WBHS from Burlington High School a week into the school year after being bullied by classmates.
“I was constantly harassed, threatened and bullied because of my hair,” Terpenning said of her time at BHS.Still self conscious about her appearance, she opted to wear wigs for much of the first semester at WBHS. But the wigs interfered with some gym class activities and caused Terpenning to suffer headaches. It wasn’t long before the two realized the wigs also were hindering her hair growth and even causing it to fall out in some places.The experience has been frustrating for Terpenning and her family.
“I get where the school’s coming from. They’ve got policy in place, but there’s got to be a grey area in there,” Osslund said. “Of course, I think she looks gorgeous with her natural hair, but for a 15-year-old girl who had hair down to her butt...”
Schmitt will meet Friday with Terpenning and Osslund to discuss the high school’s policy.