An 11-year-old girl whose rare aging condition means she is unlikely to live beyond 15 has been left heartbroken after teachers banned her from wearing a wig which makes her feel 'like the other girls'.
Ashanti Elliott-Smith suffers from Hutchinson-Gilford progeria, a fatal genetic disease which causes extreme premature aging.
Her illness means she has alopecia, which leaves her feeling even more different from her classmates. So when a friend of her mum, Phoebe, gave her a bright pink wig, Ashanti fell in love and had her heart set on wearing it to school to show off her new look to friends.
When Phoebe dropped Ashanti at school the next day, staff members at Oakmeeds Community College complimented her funky locks.
But when her mum had left, the attitude changed sharply, and Ashanti was told to remove the wig before reaching class - lest it encourage other pupils to dye their hair.
"I don't understand why," Ashanti told the Mirror. "I felt like I was being picked on and it made me embarrassed and sad.
"I can't wear bows or make-up like the other girls, but wearing my wig makes me happy and smiling."
It has been a particularly difficult year for the family, after Ashanti's dad was jailed for stealing £3,500 of charity money raised by a local bike club to send the 11-year-old on a dream holiday to the US.
"If it makes her feel beautiful then they should let her wear it," mum Phoebe insisted. "We get a lot of bad comments about Ashanti and this knocked her right back."
Ashanti has not returned to school since the incident, which occurred last week. It is currently half-term, but Phoebe remains uncertain as to whether Ashanti will be going back to Oakmeeds.
Headteacher Colin Taylor denies that the school acted inappropriately, saying that the issue was not with the wig itself, but the colour and style which Ashanti had chosen.
"We would understand if Ashanti was to need a hat or a wig when the weather gets cold, even indoors," Mr Taylor told the Mirror. "Other children have worn wigs following serious illness, but ones of a natural look, not large and brightly coloured."
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