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Dad Gets Teacher Fired For Shaming His Son With Alopecia About Getting Hair Tattooed On His Head

Jasmin Merdan/Getty Images

Hiding a potentially stressful condition for the sake of mental health is a common practice in our current society.  Unfortunately, not everybody is kind to those with differences, especially the ones that alter our appearances.

HairyThrowawayAITA, a Reddit user, has a child with alopecia—a chronic condition where someone is consistently losing their hair.  That child, at the recommendation of a doctor, got something to hide the hair loss—and as is to be expected, that was not respected.

To discern whether or not he’d done the right thing in how he handled the situation, HairyThrowawayAITA went to the popular subReddit “Am I The A**hole?” or “AITA” to get a verdict about his behavior, asking:

“AITA for getting a teacher fired over my son’s head tattoo?”

Our original poster, or OP, began by describing his son’s situation.

“My son (just turned16) has had alopecia since he was young. For those of you who don’t know, his hair falls out. It can progress with severe stress, and since elementary school, has been bullied mercilessly for it. The only real treatment was these injections into his scalp, which as I’m sure you can imagine, are super painful. It was getting to the point that he’d become anxious closer to the doctor’s visits, so I started looking at different options.”

Upon finding a new option, OP pursued it for his son.

“I came across micropigmentation, and suggested it to my son. He agreed that this seemed like the best option, and so for his birthday, I managed to get an appointment set up under his doctor’s recommendation, which made it totally legal. We drove two hours out of our way, and spent the weekend in a larger city to get this done, since our town is fairly small.”

And it completely changed his son’s self-confidence.

“I don’t know how to describe it.. even if its buzzed, this stuff looks so real, and his confidence is just through the roof. He’s no longer hiding under hats. He feels so confident with his new ‘hair,’ and it’s just really great to see.”

“I’m honestly so glad that we made the decision, because now we can just move on from all of this. It’s a huge weight lifted off of his shoulders every day.”

However, someone from his son’s school decided to make it her business.

“His school, however, thinks otherwise. He goes to a pretty strict, catholic school. Admittedly, I should have probably asked first, but I had flipped through the guidebook and saw nothing about tattoos in their policy.”

“However, I got an angry email on Monday evening from a substitute teacher. She overheard my son explaining his procedure and felt compelled to tell me how this ‘mutilation’ is illegal and unacceptable.”

And then crossed several lines.

“I tried to explain, but she refused, and continued to tear into me (and him) over this, going so far as to call me an ‘irresponsible father’ for allowing my son to get a ‘head tattoo.’ She called him a bad example, and said that in no way is this acceptable under school rules.”

Here is the part that OP is doubtful of.  Did he conduct himself properly?

“Well, here’s where I may be the AH. That admittedly pissed me off. A lot. So, I contacted not just the principal, but also a friend of mine whose on the board and the head of school, and forwarded them the conversation (with highlights), along with my own very strongly worded letter, and other emails documenting the times that my son experienced bullying at that school, with minimum (if any) repercussion to those involved. I’ll admit I was angry, but I threatened to sue them for discrimination.”

This response prompted quick results.

“Needless to say, this prompted a lot. Apparently the board is panicked about this, and the sub was fired. Word has gotten around due to the gravity of it all, and a few parents have called me the AH, saying that I took the threats too far, as this substitute was not a normal part of the school, and I shouldn’t have taken such an aggressive approach.”

OP wants an opinion–did he do the right thing?

“AITA for getting this woman fired over this, and also for causing such a stir?”

Redditors helped OP decide where guilt belongs by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
  • NAH – No A**holes Here

Reddit could not agree with OP fast enough that he was not at fault.

“Alopecia areata (if this is the type the son has) is SO difficult for those that have it. Even if the son wasn’t in high school, there’s a high chance of discrimination based on appearance. It is also one of the most difficult forms of alopecia to treat, and the injections (intralesional kenalog) can only do so much. OP did the right thing here and his son’s mental health has benefitted tremendously from the sound of it.”

“F**k that teacher. NTA.”~thegreatbiinthesky

“NTA. As long as you were truthful, it sounds like the school didn’t take a stand against bullying, and even empowered a sub (have to admit this seems far fetched because i can’t imagine a sub who wouldn’t delegate this, but taking the postat face value) to harass further.”~RO489

“It is *not* far fetched for some nosy, opinionated, holier than thou old lady who happens to be a substitute teacher to act like this. I’ve had several in my lifetime, and I can practically *hear* the tone of her voice as she spoke to OP.”

“Since she was a teacher at the school before this, she’s probably harassed and abused kids her entire career with impunity and never thought twice about continuing that trend when she stepped out of the full time role. Subs have way less sway or protections so she’s not be worth it to the board to keep on if a pricey lawsuit came down.”

“Good riddance to her, I say. She shouldn’t darken any more kids formative years. Teachers like her give teaching a bad name.”~Sweet-heart-

“NTA. This is how people react to someone calling out actual discrimination re: medical stuff. People would rather sweep it under the rug and not deal with the discomfort than acknowledge that someone overstepped in an area where their opinion and values weren’t welcome. The Catholic Church doesn’t have a stance on therapeutic cosmetic tattoos so the people giving you a hard time can all just stuff it, honestly.”~SuperChoopieBoopies

Micropigmentation as a therapeutic tool is something that the Catholic Church actually does not have an official stance on.

“I feel like you need to quit calling this a tattoo. When people get make-up tattooed on, they don’t call it face tattoos. It’s permanent make-up. This is non-invasive hair replacement.”

“I also feel like you’re trying to justify getting your son a tattoo. You didn’t. See above. NTA. F that ‘teacher.’ I wouldn’t want her near my kids. And for every parent upset by this, there are probably 2 more relieved she’s gone.”~Ma7apples

“I went to a very strict catholic school as well and there were plenty of people with accommodations for disabilities that they let slide because someone just explained to them ‘hey i know this thing breaks rules, but my kid actually has a diagnosis as to why they need this.'”

“Obviously not all are the same, but most people who’ve worked long enough at a school have encountered enough accessibility issues that they really won’t start a fight about this. So this woman was so far out of line and clearly everyone else that employed her knew it too.”

“You didn’t fire her. She did discriminate and her bosses decided firing was the appropriate action.”~burningmanonacid

“NTA. And as a teacher, this wasn’t the (only) reason she’s not getting more work from the school. It might be convenient for some to pin it on this, but it was probably just the last straw on her over-stepping.”~banjo_fandango

“NTA. You stood up for your kid against a bully that he could never beat. You should be proud. And anyone should be very aware that if they mess with your son, they will have to deal with you, and that you’re up to escalate any fight to protect him, as a good parent should. Good work.”

“Rest at ease being sure that you made your son stronger and more confident today. We learn to stand up for ourselves seeing examples like this from our parents.”~Hypnotic_Mind

Redditors are even saying OP may have saved other children from a similar fate.

“NTA, your son was bullied for a medical condition and they didn’t do nothing. Then he gets something done and feels better about himself and that’s bad? Wtf, I would even say it was a great thing you got them fired lmao, it’s THEIR job to keep the kids safe, if they cannot do what they shouldn’t be in that place.”~sparedtears

“NTA. A woman I knew as a child was substituting at a middle school where a girl I worked with in an after school program attended. This girl has the same condition as your son, but was completely bald at this point.”

“Fortunately for her she was the most confident 12 year old I ever knew (her mom was also a bad*ss, I actually took some of the same college classes as her, small town), she did not care. She owned anyone who tried to make a joke about her condition, refused wigs provided, and head coverings unless she was cold.”

“This woman I once knew was subbing for her class and took it upon herself to let this girl know, in front of the entire class, that if she prayed hard enough Jesus would heal her and her hair would grow back. The girl clapped back, of course, I believe she told her she was crazy and actually stormed out of the class, and her bad*ss mom raised hell with the school.”

“The woman was barred from subbing for the district ever again. There was a law suit regarding the religious context in a public school, but I moved before it was resolved so I don’t know how that turned out.”

“My point is that you did the right thing. Some people are either not meant to work with kids, or are just too burned out to keep doing it. The situation I related always stuck with me because that girl was so amazing.”

“How dare this stranger to her assume anything based on a brief encounter? And how many times will she have to experience things like that in her life and how long before it started to erode her wonderful self confidence? F**k any adult who does that to a child!”~cloe023

“NTA. She was a bully herself, and had no comprehension of the situation, or how beneficial this procedure was for your son. The fact that she couldn’t differentiate between a medical tattoo with parental guidance and a purpose, and a decorative tattoo with an age requirement, is proof they are not a good candidate for teaching anything.”~glimmernglitz

“NTA. This woman is a bully and has been getting away with it for years. I don’t really care what the other parents say or think. The fact that she was fired and the board is nervous tells me you’re definitely NTA. Reading your story made my heart hurt your son and everything he’s gone through but I’m glad he has more confidence now.”~Daria2008

There is no universe in which Reddit sides with the substitute teacher over the son.

In fact, Reddit thinks OP did the right thing unconditionally by sticking up for his son. It warms our hearts as well.

Written by Mike Walsh

Mike is a writer, dancer, actor, and singer who recently graduated with his MFA from Columbia University. Mike's daily ambitions are to meet new dogs and make new puns on a daily basis. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @mikerowavables.