An 11 year old girl from West Sussex, both terminally ill and suffering from alopecia, was left in floods of tears when her teacher forced her to remove her wig.
Ashanti Elliot Smith suffers from a rare ageing disease called Hutchinson Gilford Progeria, and is not expected to live past her fifteenth birthday. Her mother said that the wig was donated by a friend of the family, as she cannot afford to buy her daughter a real human hair wig. ‘I have only got a few years left with her so we want her to live it to the full’ said her mother.
The school apparently objected to the colour of her wig, believing it would encourage her classmates to dye their hair the same colour. Her mother Phoebe Smith maintains that other children in the school are aware of her condition and were understanding and supportive, far from the picture painted by the school.
She said: ‘She was devastated when they told her to take it off. Her little heart was broken, it’s disgusting. It’s a pink wig, come on, other children would have understood.’
Ashanti recently fulfilled her dream of swimming with dolphins, following overwhelming public support after her father dubiously hit the headlines by stealing the £3500 donated by a charity to fund her trip and spending it in Tesco.
Ashanti is one of a large and growing number of children in the UK who wears a wig to hide hair loss. It’s not an ideal situation, but nor is her condition and as far as we’re concerned, any steps that can be taken to improve her happiness and general quality of life should take precedence over stuffy and inflexible school rules.
This is a classic case of failure to engage brain before acting, and in hindsight we hope her school realises the consequences of their decision and promptly reverses it. This matter cannot really be compared to the general stigma of wig-wearing and hair systems because the situation is entirely different, however it is sad to see that even in such a desperate situation for Ashanti and her family, people still wish to make an unnecessary issue of her appearance.
Her school, Oakmeeds Community College in Burgess Hill, West Sussex, has so far not made any comment regarding the incident.