Newt Johnson said he'd rather be home-schooled than cut his hair so as to comply by his high school's policies
A Texas teenager hoping to grow out his hair to make a wig for his sick sister says he was given an ultimatum by his school: cut it or don’t come back.
Newt Johnson, 16, has been growing out his blond locks for his younger sister Maggie after a recent illness started making her hair fall out, WOAI/KABB reported.
“He’s growing out his hair in case I need a wig,” Maggie, 11, told the outlet.
The Poth preteen was diagnosed with Wegener’s disease in October, a disorder also known as Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis that causes inflammation of blood vessels in the nose, sinuses, throat, lungs and kidneys, and can slow blood flow to organs, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The fifth-grader told WOAI/KABB that she often gets nauseous, and has to undergo chemotherapy and dialysis.
To help ease her burdens, Newt decided to grow out his hair, as Maggie once told him that she liked his tresses.
“It made me feel good that I could do something for her,” he told the outlet.
Newt knew that in order to donate to the nonprofit Locks of Love, he needed between eight and 14 inches of hair — a length that violated Poth High School’s student handbook.
Newt told the outlet that the high school’s principal told him that he would not be allowed back at school if he did not trim his locks by the end of the three-day weekend following Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January.
“It really stressed me out because I already worried about my sister,” he said.
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After speaking with his parents, Newt decided the best course of action was to withdraw from the school and instead be home-schooled.
The Poth Student Handbook states that male students’ hair “shall not extended beyond the ear opening on the sides nor beyond the top of a dress shirt collar in the back… Hair may not extend over the top of the eyebrow, hang over the face and eyes or be distracting to others or self.”
Poth ISD Superintendent Paula Renken told CNN that Newt was asked to cut his hair before winter break in December, and was given the Jan. 21 deadline to do so.
When he came back to school at that time without a haircut, his mother, Jamie Mathis-Johnson, was called in to pick him up and take him home.
“The parent declined the offer from the Poth High School principal, Mr. [Todd] Deaver to set up a meeting with the superintendent to discuss her dissatisfaction with the dress code,” Renken told CNN.
WOAI/KABB reported that Newt’s mother did meet with school officials, but declined to challenge their decision when they refused to adjust the hair rules for Newt’s situation.
“I don’t understand why he has to get in trouble for doing this for me,” Maggie told the outlet.
Meanwhile, Renken told CNN that had Newt returned to school sans haircut, he “would not have been denied his education,” but would have received either an in-school suspension or an after-school detention.
“It was never about not supporting a sick child,” she said, noting that the district has raised more than $3,000 for the Johnson family since Maggie’s diagnosis.
Neither Renken nor Poth High School’s principal immediately responded to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Newt, meanwhile, said he still plans on growing out his hair so that he can help out his younger sister.
“Listen to your kids,” dad Alan Johnson told WOAI/KABB. “If they really believe in something, even if it does go against the rules, sometimes you just have to dig deep, see if it’s really worth it or not. It’s worth it.”