Principal Leads by Example After Student Is Picked on for His Shaved Head
Lifestyle| | By Margo Gothelf
When the grandfather of Jackson Johnston was diagnosed with cancer, he wasn’t going to let him go on the road to recovery alone.
As soon as Johnston knew his grandfather was going to lose his hair from chemotherapy, the 11-year-old made a bold decision. He chose to support his grandfather, who he calls Papa Rick, by surprising him with a shaved head during a recent visit.
“I’ve always wanted to be just like him, so I thought I’d shave my head with him to be just like him,” Johnston told Today.
While Papa Rick thought the gesture was overly kind, Johnston’s classmates thought it was weird and began teasing him when he returned to school.
“(Classmates) started making fun of my hair and joked about my hairline,” said Jackson to Today.
Jackson Johnston returned home and told his mother about the bullying, calling it “the worst day.” His mother called the school and told Principal Tim Hadley about the issue at hand.
“When she said those words, I really felt personally responsible,” Hadley told Inside Edition. “Obviously I can’t control everything everybody says, but I felt like I had an obligation and a duty to teach culture and teach life rather than just policy.”
Hadley decided to lead by example instead of just punishing Johnston’s classmates. He told Johnston’s mom to pack up the clippers she used to shave her son’s head and bring them to school the next day.
“I thought I could have a one-time conversation with a couple of kids or I could impact a generation,” Hadley told the Des Moines Register. “I think a leader is someone who knows, someone who goes and someone who shows, and I needed to show the way.”
The following day, Hadley gathered the students for an assembly and explained why Johnston’s actions were important.
“I said, ‘I’m really proud of you for what you did,'” Hadley told Inside Edition. “‘I think it takes a lot of maturity and I think it takes a lot of pride and a lot of boldness to do what you did and I want to support you.'”
He then gave the clippers to the 11-year-old and let Johnston shave his head.
“At the end of the day, I just felt like there was a greater opportunity to teach how we approach life,” Hadley told Today. “We’re here to educate, and it’s more than just books and curriculum, but about life skills and how we interact with one another.”
Hadley’s choice to lead by example really opened up a support system for the school community.
“Some of the kids who said something Monday found out that it upset Jackson through this event and apologized,” Hadley told the Des Moines Register. “I never addressed any of them individually, they chose to apologize.”
“Our students have not only supported Jackson, but all students who have something they are struggling with,” Hadley told Your Daily Dish.
His message to lead by example has touched people all over the world.
“I am extremely humbled by the overwhelming response of the public,” Hadley wrote to Your Daily Dish. “I have received messages from every corner of the world with people sharing their own stories of battles they are or have faced. Several have written just to say how nice it is to see something positive in a strained world.”
For Johnston, it is a day he will never forget.
“I really realized that someone that’s not even related to my Grandpa actually cares he has cancer,” Jackson Johnston told Today. “It meant a lot to me, and it’s probably the nicest thing anyone could have ever done.”