Ashanti Elliott-Smith, 11, has a rare disorder called Hutchinson Gilford Progeria that causes her to rapidly age, and medical experts say she likely won’t live past the age of 15. Ashanti, who also suffers from alopecia, decided that she wanted to wear a pink wig to school so that she could have hair like all of her friends, but upon arriving, her teacher made her remove it.
“She was devastated when they told her to take it off. Her little heart was broken,” said Ashanti’s mother Phoebe Smith. “It’s disgusting. It is bright but she should have the right to wear whatever color [sic] hair she wants. She was so proud of her hair but this has put her on a downer. When I took her into school three teachers by the office said she looked glamorous and beautiful and said how lovely her wig was. But as soon as I turned my back they told her to remove it. It was so embarrassing for her. It was the first time she wore the wig into school and she has not been back in since last Thursday. It’s a pink wig, come on, other children would have understood. I have only got a few years left with her so we want her to live it to the full.”
Despite the mother’s frustration, the school’s headteacher defended the teacher’s decision to have Ashanti remove the wig.
“Ashanti attended school in a large purple wig which was the first time she had appeared in school wearing a wig or any form of head wear,” said headteacher Colin Taylor. “Her Learning Mentor, who meets her every morning and supports her throughout the day along with a Learning Support Assistant, spoke to the Head of Year about it. It was agreed by the Director of Inclusion and Head of Year that Ashanti would wear the wig home but not in lessons because it was not cold in the school and she had never wanted to wear one before.”
Taylor goes on to say that he understands if she wants to wear a wig or a hat when she is cold, but he would prefer her to wear one that is a more natural color.
“At no time to our knowledge did she request special consideration about head wear but we would fully understand it if Ashanti was to need a hat or indeed a wig when the weather gets cold – even indoors,” Taylor added. “In the past other children have worn wigs following serious illness, but ones that were of a natural look – not large brightly colored ones. We are more than happy to discuss this with Ashanti and her mum when College starts again next week after the half term break.”
Recently, Ashanti’s father Albi Elliott was sent to jail for three years after stealing his daughter’s charity money that was set up for her to be able to swim with dolphins.