Shaker Heights high school seniors, families protest virtual commencement

Coronavirus

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW) — Graduating seniors in one local school district are protesting their
virtual commencement.

 “The email was sent out a few days ago about how Shaker was having a virtual commencement.  And it just came out of the blue,” said Lauren Helmick, senior at Shaker Heights High School.

Helmick was among the hundreds of seniors in the Shaker Heights City School District shocked to learn of a virtual commencement ceremony on June 3.

 “Students and parents were upset we were kept out of the loop.  And there are other districts in the area are moving their graduation to August, late July,” said Helmick.

In response, some students and parents held a peaceful protest Friday at noon at the district administration building.

“We wanted to start the protest because of how devastating it was and how we felt like the Superintendent didn’t hear our opinions,” said senior Brooklyn Williams.

Williams says what they are really protesting is the lack of communication from the district.

“It just made us very angry, upset, and discouraged really because we worked so hard to get to this point in our lives, to walk across that stage,” said Williams.

Williams says word of the peaceful protest was spread through social media and text messages.

“We plan on wearing masks, gloves, and standing six feet from each other,” said Williams.

“First of all, let me say this: Class of 2020, I understand and share your frustration that this pandemic has disrupted what should be a special and celebratory time for you and for your families,” said
Superintendent Dr. David Glasner in a video on the school’s website Thursday morning.

Dr. Glasner also apologized for not communicating with students and parents, but addressed his decision saying, “Ultimately, we were concerned that rescheduling commencement, even at our own stadium, carried with it the likely possibility of cancellation, which would mean no commencement at all.”

Helmick is upset about the online commencement; however, she doesn’t think students should gather on Friday.

“I don’t necessarily think this needs to be protested. I think it’s more of a conversation. The school is doing the best they can due to the situation we are all in right now,” said Helmick.

But, Williams says this is about having their voices heard now and in the future.

“I just want the superintendent to hear us out and hear new ideas so it’s not just a virtual commencement,” said Williams.

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