High School Refuses To Acknowledge Deceased Student During Graduation

by Christina Marfice

William G. Enloe Magnet High School wants graduation to have a “happy, vibrant feel”

It would have been hard to make this school year more difficult for Michelle Rosoff — her daughter, Rachel, who would have graduated from high school this June, was killed last fall when she was electrocuted in the water at the pool where she worked. It was “a freak and tragic accident,” according to the GoFundMe page set up shortly after her death.

But with Rachel’s would-be graduation date approaching, her family and friends hoped she would be memorialized during the ceremony. The principal at William G. Enloe Magnet High School shut that idea down.

Michelle posted on Facebook with a screenshot of the email she received from the school principal, telling her that they wouldn’t be having a memorial for Rachel during graduation because they want the ceremony to be “happy” and “vibrant.”

“I have spoken with leaders at the district office regarding your inquiry and request,” the email reads. “The stance of the district continues to be that we refrain from memorials at the Graduation Ceremony. Because Graduation is meant to be a ceremony for students’ accomplishments and a celebration thereof, we want to ensure that the ceremony maintains a happy, vibrant feel.”

The email continues, “A memorial of a lost/loved one that has the potential to cause students (or others) to react in ways that would take trained professionals (i.e. counselors) to support – we cannot ensure that on such an occasion. Consequently, we will not have a memorial at the graduation ceremony.”

Michelle, who works as a therapist, told Buzzfeed News she didn’t buy the school district’s reasoning.

“I’m a therapist, that’s what I do for a living. If they need therapists, I’ll bring a whole shitload of therapists,” she said.

She also said that she started a $500 scholarship, which the school district links to on its website.

“They can take my money now that I’m funding them for a scholarship and they can have her name on the website but they don’t want to acknowledge her at graduation,” Michelle said.

A petition started by Rachel’s sister, Jordana, was approaching 9,000 signatures on Tuesday morning. An update posted to the petition page Monday said that the school district had not yet responded to mounting pressure from the community to hold a memorial for Rachel. One commenter on the petition page, claiming to be a former English teacher at Rachel’s school, said students who died were memorialized during graduation in past years.

“A sad time…but the honorable and caring act should take place. You cannot protect kids from the inevitable pains of life or death for that matter,” she wrote.