Over the school holidays, Niamh Baldwin made the brave decision to shave her head for a charitable cause. Her family were immensely proud of her, but when she returned for class, she received a bit of a shock. The teenager was told that she would be sitting alone.
Niamh Baldwin is a 14-year-old girl from Cornwall, England. Recently, she did something that got her into big trouble with her school. But not everyone agreed that her punishment was deserved. After all, she had only acted with the best intentions.
Baldwin’s actions resulted in her being removed from classes at Mounts Bay Academy in Penzance. The punishment wasn’t for getting into a fight at school, however, or bringing drugs onto the premises, or anything dramatic like that. In fact, it was for doing something incredibly kind.
Over the Christmas holidays at the end of 2017, the teenager made a bold decision. Not only was she going to drastically change her appearance, but she was also going to make a significant charitable donation in the process. Her long hair was about to get the chop.
Baldwin had heard about the Little Princess Trust, a charity that supports children with various health conditions. The premise behind the organization is to provide kids who have lost their hair due to illness with wigs made from real hair, donated by the public.
And Baldwin was ready to donate her locks to the worthy cause. So, by the end of the school holidays her blonde hair was gone, leaving her with a shaved head. But when she returned to school for the new semester, the academy’s reaction was unexpected.
Although Baldwin’s mom, Anneka, was very proud of her daughter for doing something so admirable for ill children, the school wasn’t quite on the same page. Unfortunately, Baldwin wasn’t congratulated by her teachers. She was punished instead.
After the teenager returned to school in January 2018, she was removed from classes. Not only that, but she was also made to sit in isolation on her first day back. Baldwin was so upset by the seemingly unfair punishment that she didn’t even return to school the next day.
But the school nonetheless stuck by its decision to reprimand the teenager for her actions. According to the principal of the academy, Sara Davey, the school had longstanding rules about hairstyles. And for Davey, Baldwin’s shaved head represented an obvious violation of the uniform code.
Speaking to Cornwall Live, Davey said, “The policy on extreme haircuts in school is very clear and has been published in our behavior policy for many years. Extreme haircuts including head shaving have never been allowed, and this is common for schools across the U.K.”
“All students know that this is the school policy, and they also know that the consequence is to complete school work in the inclusion room until the hair grows so that is it no longer extreme,” she continued. But Baldwin’s mom was furious.
“I am so upset that the school has made her feel so low and put her into isolation because her hair needs to be one centimeter longer” Baldwin’s mother said. “That’s to be able to join in with classes and be allowed to see her peers in the playground.”
Considering that her daughter had always had near-perfect report cards, Anneka felt that the decision to isolate her was even more unfair. She described the teenager as “an amazingly polite and lovely girl,” whether her hair was long or short. So, to Baldwin’s furious mom, the school’s decision was totally uncalled for.
“To me, it’s discrimination,” she told Cornwall Live. Not only that, but the punishment had also made her teenage daughter feel “low.” Baldwin’s mom believed that the school should encourage charitable acts like her daughter’s.
Given that 14-year-old girls generally care a lot about their appearance, Anneka was particularly impressed with her daughter’s brave decision to shave her head for the benefit of others. “To do something like this, we were all very proud,” she said.
But the academy stated that Baldwin should have alerted her teachers about her charitable intentions. “If Niamh had asked the school about shaving her hair for charity, then this would have been pointed out, and an alternative fundraising idea would have been suggested,” Davey claimed.
The principal suggested that Baldwin could potentially wear a headscarf until her hair grew back to an acceptable length. In the end, though, it only took a few days to grow out a little, and Baldwin was soon back in class as usual. But by then, the story had already caused a social media storm.
Baldwin’s mom had posted a message of support to her daughter on Facebook. It included the phrase, “You’re amazing, and don’t let anyone ever let you feel less than that.” And it attracted plenty of attention. Some commenters protested that the academy’s decision to isolate Baldwin was “horrendous” and “stupid.”
A few Daily Mail readers were also incensed by the story when the newspaper covered it. “Sorry but this is very short-sighted of the school. It’s a shaved head, not a non-realistic color or outlandish style. Some of these rules are beyond a joke,” wrote one.
Although relations between the academy and the Baldwins might have become a little strained, The Little Princess Trust has expressed sincere gratitude to Baldwin. And in an effort to avoid similar incidents in the future, the charity has asked those under 16 to seek permission from their parents before donating their hair.