Graduate shut out of ceremony

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 25, 2002

By Rachel Harris

RESERVE – An East St. John High School senior was denied the privilege to walk with more than 200 of her peers at graduation on Saturday because of a 15-year-old school policy mandating the attendance of three school functions in order to graduate.

Jessica Raymore did not attend Senior Night, a social gathering put on by students with slide shows, skits, awards, and senior celebration.

“I missed out on graduation and that will stay for the rest of my life. I didn’t get to go through the graduation ceremony and experience that. It feels like I didn’t graduate. It is very upsetting,” Raymore said.

The rule states that graduating seniors must attend Senior Awards Night, Senior Night, and a graduation practice in order to walk in the ceremony, ESJHS Principal Debbie Schum said. The rule was implemented to raise attendance at graduation preparatory events and was approved by the parent organization at the time.

The three-tier requirements encourage well-rounded participation from the students in a variety of events, Schum said. The students are informed in writing of the rule throughout the year and reminded at all senior meetings. Valid excuses for absences are considered, Schum said.

“The majority of people don’t mind the rule because they like to see their students involved in all aspects of graduation,” Schum said.

St. John the Baptist Parish Superintendent Mike Coburn said the rule was established for the good of the students in 1987 while he was principal at ESJHS.

“They are still under our jurisdiction. We provide guidance, direction and discipline,” Coburn said.

Raymore attended the graduation ceremony as an audience member and she was asked by school officials to leave the ceremony when she would not remove her cap and gown.

Prior to the event, Raymore was specifically told she could not wear it, Schum said.

“I didn’t think it was right to tell me to leave. It’s something you look forward to since you’re small. I felt it was my right to wear my gown, so I did,” Raymore said. “I couldn’t march with my class. That’s not right. The rule should be changed.”

All ESJHS seniors were informed of the rules in advance. Raymore’s removal from the ceremony was an enforcement of the rule, Coburn said.

“Graduation is a dignified ceremony. I would not lessen the dignity of the class by having someone in the their cap and gown sitting in the audience,” Schum said.

Brigette Alvarez, mother of Jessica Raymore, said her daughter met all academic requirements for graduation and feels it is unfair that Raymore’s participation in the ceremony was based on her attendance at a social event.

Alvarez said she had contacted an attorney and planned to file a lawsuit.