On January 28, Christin Johnson in Ohio snapped a photograph of her teenage daughter, Kelsey, riding next to her in the car with a full head of long hair, recently coloured with blonde highlights.
The salon treat was a birthday gift from Christin but, three days later when Kelsey returned from a stay at her father’s house, the hair and the highlights were gone.
Instead, Kelsey’s hair was chopped haphazardly in a crew-cut style that meant no flicker of the blonde dye remained. The teenager’s precise age has not been disclosed.
Furious, Christin posted the before-and-after images – the latter showing her daughter with her hands to her face, clearly distraught – to Facebook.
“This is what my daughter looked like Sunday when I took her home and the other two pics is what happened today before she was brought to me,” Christin’s post read. “All over me having highlights put in her hair for her birthday!”
The reaction was overwhelming, with the post shared thousands of times and many people backing Christin’s outrage.
“This is emotional abuse,” one person commented.
“Don’t let them steal your happiness,” another said.
Perhaps bolstered by the support she received online, Christin went onto file a complaint with the local police.
Police Chief Colby Carroll told the publication the complaint accuses Kelsey’s father and stepmother of forcing the child to have a haircut as punishment.
Listen: A mother has banned men from looking after her kids alone. Is this instilling our children with fear?
As well as this, the Middleton Township Fire Department – where the couple volunteer – have placed the pair on leave pending the results of both the police investigation and an inquiry by local child protective services.
In a later post, Christin said her daughter has been given a wig by a friend, who’s a stylist, which will tie her over until her hair grows out.
Neither the father nor the stepmother responded to Buzzfeed’s request for comment.