Students rally around classmate with hair loss

BREVARD COUNTY, Fl. (WESH) — Some Brevard County students got a real-life lesson on Tuesday about the pain of teasing and bullying, and it came from a fourth-grader.

Jenna Gathercole experiences hair loss.

The fourth-grader stood up and talked about her medical condition, and the students responded with a heartfelt pledge.

Gathercole sometimes loses some of her hair, and sometimes it comes out in clumps.

“I have an auto-immune disorder. It’s called alopecia. It’s causing my hair to fall out,” Gathercole said.

Having a condition such as hers can sometimes make school seem like the scariest place to go.

Gathercole, who is nine years old, certainly doesn’t show any fear.

“When I comb my hair, it tends to fall out a lot,” she said.

Taking the issue head-on, Gathercole gave the whole fourth-grade class at Viera Charter School a presentation on what’s happening to her, even saying it’s possible she could lose all her hair. She answered every question she was asked.

“I want them to know I’m still me. I’m OK, and that because this is happening to me or anyone else, it’s not OK to bully,” she said.

Her mom and dad encouraged her to speak out, and she spoke loud and clear. The students readily joined in on a pledge not to tease or bully.

“If I hear negative talk, I will not be a bystander. I will not be a bystander,” they said in unison.

“This can’t stop her. She can do whatever she wants, and alopecia is not going to stand in her way,” assistant principal Dr. Lynn Spadaccini said.

They do not see this as a scary moment, but a strong one.

“Oh, my gosh. I am so incredibly proud of her,” said mother Karen Gathercole.

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