Jetta Fosberg is gaining support for her cause on Facebook.
Ten-year-old Jetta Fosberg of Ohio just cut her long blonde hair into a pixie cut, donating 14-inches to Wigs for Kids. Her paternal grandmother passed away several years ago from lung cancer, and maternal grandfather is currently battling stage four colon cancer. After witnessing their chemo treatments, she wanted to help out in her own way. What she never expected was endless bullying from her classmates. “It was a really big surprise,” says Jetta, who has now missed almost two weeks of school from the issue. “Usually my friends are really supportive, but they were saying I was ugly, that no one likes me anymore, and calling me names like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus.”
Jetta’s mother, Heidi Fosberg, waited a few months to be certain her daughter was sure about getting the drastic haircut. Before bringing her to Great Clips in Dayton, Ohio, for a modern pixie cut last week. She, too, has been shocked by the reaction of her peers, but more specifically the administration at her public charter school, Pathway School of Discovery.
Jetta is all smiles today, but still not back in school.
“A group of students harassed her on a daily basis saying ‘you want to be a boy’ or calling her nasty names and the male students especially would not let it go,” says Fosberg. When some boys starting digging into Jetta in the middle of art class, the teacher told her to ignore their comments, without saying anything to the boys. Fosberg contacted the teacher who said he’d notify the dean. After no response, she pulled her distressed daughter out of school and went to the head of school. “The principal, Keith Colbert, sent me an incident report form and said there would be consequences for the boys, including written apologies to Jetta,” she says. “But when I brought her back to school on Monday it was like nothing had ever happened. The boys continued teasing her, saying their parents didn’t really care and that the school hadn’t followed through on any punishment.”
Frustrated, Fosberg went back to principal Colbert with Jetta in tow. “He said it was unreasonable for the apologies to be done in such a short time and that Jetta should just toughen up,” she says. “He told me it’s hard to take bullying seriously in the school when parents don’t take it seriously at home, so there wasn’t much they could do. Then he used the adage ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,’ and said ‘nobody has ever died from words.’ At that point I realized he’s just not going to see our side of this. I looked over to Jetta and said, ‘do you have anything to add?’ She looked and me and sadly said ‘no.’”
Jetta’s long hair before chopping it off for the charity Wigs for Kids.
Fosberg took matters into her own hands, making the Facebook page Stand With Jetta where people can express their support and reinforce Jetta’s positive decision to cut off her hair for cancer. In one week the site already has 4,700 likes. “ The bullying and teasing is so negative we wanted to put a positive spin on it and show her that even though this group has not been nice there are so many who respect what you did. If you don’t stand up and be proactive it’s not going to get any better.” She also staged a small silent rally at the school during the morning drop-off. “We had 30 people join us with positive posters like ‘good morning,’ ‘smile,’ ‘you are special.”’ Some parents said ‘hi’ and ‘thank you’ and honked their horn, but the administration continues to completey ignore us.”
Meanwhile, Jetta is sad to be out of school for this long. “It’s tough for her—she loves to learn and to read. She has a really great group of friends there who she misses,” she says. Fosberg asked the teachers to gather Jetta’s work so she could continue with her studies from home, but they have not helped. The family has not heard from the school, or their parent company, National Heritage Academies, based out of Michigan. “At this point im not comfortable taking her back until we have word from the school about what’s going on. We are looking at other options in neighboring district or doing online schooling until we can figure out something else.”
This isn’t the first or last time a school has blundered a bullying issue, but when a child’s education and well-being is at stake they need to feel at ease in their learning environment. Jetta herself says she’s sad to be out of school but isn’t ready to return. “I’m not really comfortable going back into the environment.”