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Principal shaves head to support bullied student

Meredith Bland is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on Time.com, Brain, Mother, The Rumpus, Scary Mommy and Narratively, among others.

This middle school principal demonstrated empathy to his students in an amazing way

Sometimes, teaching our kids a lesson takes more than just wagging fingers and administering punishments. Sometimes, we need to show them what kinds of people we want them to be by being those people ourselves. That's what one Packwood, Iowa, middle school principal did on Tuesday when he had his own head shaved during a special assembly.

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Let's backtrack: On Monday, 11-year-old Jackson Johnston showed up at school with a shaved head. He did it as a show of support for his grandfather, who is fighting cancer. "Knowing that one of my loved ones could die like that was, like, really, really scary for me, and [I] told my grandpa we could start a new club of shaved heads," Jackson told KCCI News.

Sadly, it didn't take long for other students to start teasing him for his new look. In an interview with WhoTV, Jackson said, "Right off the bat, I had two mean comments, like 'Well, you look like you have cancer' and, like, other stuff like 'Hi bald boy.'"

We all know that bullying happens and that middle schoolers can be the worst, but to make fun of someone by saying, "you look like you have cancer"? That should break all of our hearts.

More: Here's what your kids are really learning about bullying in school

Pekin Middle School Principal Tim Hadley debated how to handle the bullying. The easiest thing to do would have been to bring those kids into his office and punish them for their behavior, but instead, Hadley called for a special assembly, and in front of Jackson's classmates, had Jackson shave his head.

"I said... this is an opportunity to teach more than just what our handbook says and policy — this is an opportunity to teach life," said Hadley. "For me, I thought, 'If this makes one student stop before saying something, I think it's all been worth it.'"

This principal's selfless act did indeed have an effect — some of the students responsible apologized to Jackson on their own, and others have shaved their heads as well. In an email to the Huffington Post, Hadley said, "It has opened up a huge line of communication with students about their own struggles and life battles. It has been truly humbling to see how many people this simple act has impacted."

More: I found out my son was the thing I feared: The bully

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