Principal shaves head to teach anti-bully message

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PEKIN, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) – Jackson Johnston is a 6th grader at Pekin Middle School in Jefferson County. Last Sunday, he shaved his entire head. Monday morning when he went to school, his confidence changed because students started asking questions.

Jackson Johnson shaves the head of Pekin Middle School Principal Tim Hadley in Pekin, Iowa on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017.

“There were many people who came up and said rude comments. I was going to my first class and I had someone come up to me and say, ‘well you look like you have cancer’. I said actually I’m not the one who has cancer. I did this because my grandpa has cancer,” Jackson said.

Jackson’s Papa Rick is fighting a rare form of lymphoma. He hasn’t lost his hair yet, but before he does Jackson wanted to surprise him. Jackson’s Mom Amber Johnston said she was incredibly proud.

“When we got down to Papa’s that day, his hair hasn’t all come out yet, but it’s patchy. He didn’t want to shave it and spook the kids. When Jackson came in and took his hat off and said ‘Hey Papa, I thought we could start a new club.’ Just the emotion that went over his face, it was just amazing.”

When Principal Tim Hadley heard Jackson went home upset Monday afternoon, he took the matter into his own hands.

“For me as a principal, I thought there’s a couple ways I could handle this. I could come in and bring in the individuals that made comments and we can talk about it. We could do suspensions, detentions, and all the things that our handbook says to do,” Hadley said.

Or he said he could try a different approach. Without explanation, he sent a message to Jackson’s mom asking to send her Jackson to school with clippers. Tuesday, Hadley held an assembly and invited Jackson to the front. Then told him he could shave his head in front of everyone.

“My mother had thyroid cancer. My mother in law had uterine cancer. My grandfather didn’t finish his battle against cancer. It was something that resonated deeply with me,” Hadley said. “I know so many people that have gone through what Jackson’s going through. To be a young man and find out that a family member has potentially a life threatening illness, it’s a difficult thing to handle.”

Since the assembly, Hadley said it’s opened up a dialogue within the school and the community. More and more are speaking about the importance to love and support each other.

“It gave our family a lot of hope and a lot of happiness when things haven’t been very happy or hopeful lately. It just means a lot,” Johnston said.

“He’s probably the number one principal ever,” Jackson said.

You can watch the full video of Jackson shaving Hadley’s head here.