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School Tells Teen Battling Cancer That Her Wig Is In Violation Of Their Dress Code

Battling cancer is never easy, no matter what type of cancer you’re diagnosed with. But, when you’re young and going through your adolescence, it’s definitely an entirely different struggle. Not only are you figuring out who you are, learning about yourself, and growing up–you’re also worried every day about your health.
Kate Pepper knows this all too well. The 17-year-old has been diagnosed with brain cancer, twice, and has struggled to live her life as a normal teenager while dealing with her health and treatment. After her second diagnosis, she began losing her hair rather quickly. She even posted an emotional YouTube video about it.

Pepper began wearing wigs to school after losing some of her hair due to her brain cancer treatment. Pepper’s mother took her shopping to find one she loved–that made her feel beautiful. But, after wearing the wig to school, administrators told Pepper that the wig violated their dress code policy. Pepper’s mother posted a photo of the wig on her Facebook page.

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Her mother also posted a photo on Facebook of her daughter’s hair loss, to show that its significant and noticeable.

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Pepper decided to write the school administrators a letter, stating why she should be allowed to wear her wig.

Hello, my name is Katilyn Pepper and I was recently re-diagnosed with brain cancer. In the process of treatment “radiation and chemotherapy”, I lost a large amount of hair, and I fell as if a big part of me is missing. I know hair isn’t the most important thing in the world but, it brings me to a sad and hard realization I’m truly going through cancer.

It honestly sucks for me because I’m not able to express myself through the way I wear my hair as I once did (straight, curly, braided, etc.). Yet a wig is the exception, when my mother and I started looking for a wig I honestly thought that none of them looked good on me, and I would just look ugly until my hair grew back. After a few days of us looking I was able to hide my baldness and show my strength with a two tone turquoise and black wig that symbolizes confidence, integrity and power, to help me weather through the storm.

These past two days that I’ve been in school teachers and students alike have complimented me on my “hair”, saying how they love the color and how I rock it. This wig makes me feel normal, confident and other wise pretty during a time in my life where I have so many things I can’t control, I thought this was the one thing I could, so when my new and old house principals Mr. Ortiz and Mrs. Wood told me that I couldn’t wear this wig anymore all of the wind was let out of my sails.

I know there are rules and there are always exceptions, I’m asking for the sake of my sanity please allow this to be one. I’m empowered by wearing this wig although it’s subtle in color it gives me an abundance of strength and power to grieve the loss of my hair, and gives me the fortitude I need to fight this battle I’m facing with cancer.

Sincerely,
Katilyn Pepper

However, they denied her request, because the wig has “some blue in it.” The district wrote Peppers a letter saying:

Ms. Pepper,

While I one hundred percent sympathize with the issue you are going through. I am not able to grant you the ability to wear a wig with turquoise in it to school. The mere fact that you could wear a wig that is in dress code is the prohibiting factor in my decision. IT has absolutely nothing to do with anything else other than policy. Others in that school of 3000 students won’t all have the privilege of knowing why we might grant such an exception for you….and not for them. And we certainly aren’t comfortable with sharing what you’re going through with everyone else in order that they understand why the exception was granted. The bottom line is…our district dress code, which is annually presented to our Board of Trustees, and ultimately approved by them, does not have a provision in it allowing for such an exception. I am so sorry that you are battling what you are going through. I truly can’t imagine. However, if you’re planning on wearing a wig, it will need to fall into the category of a natural color, as is described in our official MISD dress code policy.

Respectfully,
R. McDaniel

Pepper’s mother went down to speak to the principal in person about the situation, thinking if she spoke to him face-to-face and explained how important it was to her daughter, they may understand. However, according to her video, they were less than understanding.

The story was picked up in a local newspaper in McKinney, Texas–where Peppers lives. The story caught the eye of Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who was moved and touched by Peppers. He tweeted:

“I support clear rules for students but I am asking McKinney ISD to create an exception to their dress code and allow Kate Pepper to wear her beautiful wig. I will send a formal communication to the district tomorrow.”

After the district saw the commotion online and heard that government officials were getting involved, they changed their ways and allowed Peppers to wear her wig to school. Patrick even thanked the school district for changing their ways.

We hope that Kate stays strong and continues to fight, we’ll keep her in our prayers, as well.