S.D. student who fought cancer will be allowed at grad ceremony

Meredith Erck, the Rapid City, S.D., senior who wanted to walk with her friends at what would have been her commencement had she not been battling cancer, will walk with her friends after all.

Her school district has reversed its previous denial, the Rapid City Journal reports today.

Earlier this week, the district said allowing her to participate with her class would cheapen the value of the degrees being bestowed on her high school’s seniors.

In reversing the decision, the district cited the outpouring of support for her after her story went public.

“After being told ‘no’ for three times in a week’s time, she decided it was time to speak up, tell her story and hopefully make some changes in policy in school districts so that other children who are ill, have to go through five surgeries in two and a half years, can be changes made in the policies to accommodate other children,” Sue Polanco, the girl’s grandmother, tells South Dakota Public Broadcasting.

“Not all decisions are black and white,” district superintendent Dr. Lori Simon said. “Not everyone agrees on one side of the issue or another. I think this is a situation where we had to look at it on an individual basis. I think, moving forward, any policy… we need to think through those pieces really carefully to see if we can provide a little more guidance for these kinds of exceptional situations.”

The commencement will be held on Sunday.

  • John O.

    Dr. Simon should have just kept quiet after the decision was reversed to allow Ms. Erck to walk with her classmates.

  • BReynolds33

    The Superintendent’s quote at the end. She couldn’t have put that together without the public telling her she was being an idiot? It took making it into a national story for her to realize maybe she could show some basic human empathy?

    • jon

      That would have gone against school district policy of not leveraging basic human empathy during the decision making processes.
      And the decision making process is only leveraged if telling people “no” doesn’t appear to work.

      But the policy of the school board to fold under public pressure is still in place… so there is that.

  • KariBemidji

    Shame. Sometimes, the best motivator of all.

  • KTFoley

    The board got a little headline help for going in a different direction. I’m okay with it this morning because it’s the outcome I would have liked. But I admit that the line between “responding to public pressure” and “caving in” traces the exact boundary between what I would & would not want them to do.

    Do you imagine that it’s probably true for most of the audience in our reactions to similar situations?

    Thinking back to the earlier thread, I do believe that part of the dynamic is the people or groups that worry about risk avoidance can be swayed by a public outcry because it changes the calculus of what risk / to whom / how much / how likely.

    If we’re not making decisions based on how best to carry out our mission here & now, we have a much harder time defending our choices under a spotlight. That calculus changes all the time. What should have been a path turns into a tightrope. That’s a hard way to live.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    I suspect that once the story went public, in Rapid City, some of the students whose degrees “might have been cheapened” spoke up and basically said to the district, “Don’t put words in our mouths”. Maybe next time before the district does something because “they are trying to protect” some group of students they’ll allow the affected group a chance to weigh in.

  • Laurie K.

    It is unfortunate that the student and the family had to take this to the media before the school officials realized that “not all decisions are black and white”. As another commenter stated in the earlier post about this story, had the student had a mental health issue or a substance addiction, this likely never would have come to the public’s attention.