Nine-year-old Kamryn Renfro is wise and compassionate beyond her tender years. When her school in Colorado banned her for a clear violation of its strict dress code, parents, students and supporters were outraged. She had shaved her head, but it was for a heartbreaking reason that may just move you to tears.
Many young girls love long hair. It’s fun to play with – tying it up in bunches, braids and pony tails and decorating it with ribbons and bows, for instance. It’s therefore not often that a nine-year-old will make a bold decision to shave it, as Kamryn Renfro did.
Kamryn had discussed the idea of shaving her head with her parents, and amazingly they wholeheartedly supported what she wanted to do. So, one weekend, they grabbed the clippers and sheared off their young daughter’s hair, immensely proud of her decision and why she was doing it.
Kamryn’s proud parents then sent her off to school, the Caprock Academy charter school in Grand Junction, on Monday. Her mom, Jamie, was excited for her to tell classmates about the statement she was making by shaving her head. The school headmaster, however, didn’t share their enthusiasm.
The headmaster, Kristin Trezise, made a discreet phone call to Jamie to inform her that Kamryn was in violation of the school dress code. Trezise told her that her daughter would not be welcome back at the school unless she wore a wig until her hair grew back.
Jamie emailed the school in support of her daughter, explaining why they backed Kamryn’s hairstyle choice. But there is a strict dress code in place supposedly designed to “promote safety, uniformity, and a non-distracting environment for the school’s students. Under this policy, shaved heads are not permitted.”
Jamie couldn’t believe it. Consequently, she decided to air her opinion in a Facebook post, writing, “We do sign that we understand and agree to the rules every year… But honestly, I never thought my nine-year-old daughter would do something so courageous, brave and selfless.”
Jamie continued, “[Kamryn] was excited to go to school and talk to her peers about what she had done and why. I get to try to explain why she can’t do that without making her lose her spirit or feel like she is being punished for something so amazing.”
Kamryn hadn’t shaved her head in a defiant act of rebellion. She had done it as a show of support for her best friend, Delaney Clements. Because Delaney had lost all of her own hair while she was undergoing treatment for Neuroblastoma, a rare cancer found in young people.
Delaney had been diagnosed with the disease three-and-a-half years before. And having suffered several relapses, every time she went through chemotherapy she would lose her hair. So when it came to battling the cancer for a fourth time, Kamryn decided she wouldn’t let her best friend suffer alone.
Delaney, who had been called a boy and subjected to people staring, told Fox News, “I was really excited I would have somebody to support me and I wouldn’t be alone with people always laughing at me. I would at least have somebody to go through it all.”
Aged 11, Delaney was at a rare age for neuroblastoma, with the majority of cases diagnosed before the age of five. It is a cancer found in the nervous system, with most cases forming in the adrenal glands. In younger patients, however, cancer cells can sometimes die and tumors disappear on their own.
So when asked why she shaved her head in support of her friend, Kamryn simply replied, “It felt like the right thing to do.” However, the act of solidarity quickly turned into a public battle between a girl’s commitment to friendship and an institution’s commitment to rules and discipline.
But Delaney, meanwhile, was blown away. So when her friend was forbidden from going to school she said, “It makes me sad because she was really happy to go back to school and show people what she did, but now that she didn’t get to she’s kind of sad.”
Delaney’s mom, Wendy, praised Kamryn for her courage and couldn’t understand the school’s decision. She said, “For a little girl to be really brave and want to shave her head in support of her friend, I thought that was a huge statement and it builds character in a child.”
So when Kamryn’s mom posted their story to Facebook, word spread quickly and there was a backlash against the school. Jamie Renfro, however, defended them, saying, “[Staff] suffered greatly today. For that I am sorry. I feel extremely guilty. I would just like all of the negativity to go away.”
Following the outpouring of public support, Kamryn was reinstated, with the school board voting to make an exception to the rule based on “extraordinary circumstances.” Chairwoman Catherine Norton Breman said, “We’re a classical education school. We would expect our students to engage in critical thinking, and sometimes that’s going to be challenging us.”
“Words cannot express how humbled my family is from all the support that [everyone has] shown us,” Jamie wrote to Facebook. However, she also stressed the importance of the real battle that was going on. “Delaney is still in the fight of her life and needs as much love, support and prayers as she can get.”
Yet Kamryn’s shaved head wasn’t the only high profile support Delaney received while undergoing treatment. In December 2015 she received a visit from pop megastar Taylor Swift after a Twitter campaign used the #DelaneyMeetTaylor hashtag. But tragically, Delaney’s health deteriorated and she passed away in March 2016, aged 13.
“A piece of my heart died the moment you took your last breath,” Wendy wrote on Facebook. “You took the time to always comfort others even when you were struggling so hard to understand the hand you were dealt. I miss you more than words can express.”