Saturday, January 30, 2016

Protest considered for Joplin High School Graduation ceremony over Zach Williams request

The controversy over how former East Middle School student Zach Williams, who was killed in the May 22, 2011, tornado should be recognized during graduation ceremonies for the Joplin High School Class of 2016 continues with plans for a protest if Williams is not recognized with a chair with a cap and gown draped over it.

Printed below are the statement issued by Joplin High School Principal December 4 concerning the request by Zach's family. Though Sachetta's statement was originally published December 4 on the district website, it received more attention Friday when R-8 Board of Education President Jeff Koch linked to it on his Jeff Koch for School Board Facebook page. After Sachetta's statement is the response posted this morning on the Zach Williams Memorial Facebook page by Georgiann Diener:

A message from Joplin High School Principal Dr. Kerry Sachetta

Recently, a parent in our district made a request to have her son, who passed away during the May 2011 tornado, recognized during the May 2016 JHS graduation ceremony. He was in seventh grade at the time of his death and would have graduated with the Class of 2016.

Our current and longstanding practice is to recognize students who pass away at any point while attending Joplin High School by announcing their names and holding a moment of silence to honor them during the graduation ceremony. We have recognized ten high school students in this manner over the last several years. This recent request and the conversations occurring on social media and in our community have challenged us to review this practice. Is this the best way to honor students? Should we expand this to include students who never attended our high school but attended Joplin Schools? How would we ensure students weren’t forgotten? Is this appropriate during what is typically a celebratory event? What do other schools in our area do? And, what we believe is the most important question, what do our students think? Graduation is, after all, a celebration and recognition of their accomplishments.

This week, we spoke with several seniors at JHS to help inform the review of our current practice and to help us make our decision. These students represented a broad and diverse mix of our student population. We also spoke with several staff members. We shared our current practice and the additional plans to mark the five-year anniversary of the tornado, which includes holding a moment of silence and displaying the names of the Joplin Schools' students and staff member who passed away. We also shared details of the request that was made by the parents, which includes an empty seat at graduation decorated with a cap and gown and the student’s name read aloud during the naming of students as they cross the stage to accept their diplomas. Overwhelmingly, the students preferred that our current practice remain intact. The staff members we spoke to felt the same. Our students feel it is appropriate to make an exception to our current practice to help honor these parents' son by listing his name and the names of the other students and staff member lost during the tornado on a screen during the ceremony and holding a moment of silence to honor them. They also suggested adding the class these students would have belonged to on the screen as an additional recognition, which we will do. In this way, our students will honor a classmate who would have graduated with the Class of 2016 and all those we lost as a district that terrible day.

After wrestling with the questions raised by this discussion and seeking feedback from our students, it was their input that helped us to decide at this time to leave our current practice in place. We have shared this decision with the parents who requested that we make a change to this practice. Our hearts and thoughts are with this family and all of those throughout our district who have lost a child. There is not a more difficult event to imagine. We appreciate the feedback we have received from our parents and community and especially the feedback from our students. We are proud of their thoughtfulness and compassion during these discussions and their willingness to share their thoughts, concerns and ideas.

Dr. Kerry Sachetta
Joplin High School Principa


And the response:

We the mothers supporting Tammy have our own statement/

I VERY STRONGLY disagree with this decision on JOPLIN R-8 school systems, not to honor the request from this mother that came and asked for this to honor her son. He talks about all of the people he talked to.. lots of people have told me they were a select chosen few students and teachers not the voice of all the students in class of 2016.... ... And he never says anything about talking to any mental heath prefessionals, because we, the whole community Joplin , and SW Missouri lived through one of the worst tornadoes on United States Soil.. I think we all carry little bit that with us ... And as a community we need to heal .

Just maybe Joplin R-8 School should have thought about every student and parent, called in mental health officials, from school and public to make decisions not to disturb anyone's healing process.

Tammy Niederhelman lost her home, her son, everything... now five short years later Joplin R-8 school who received money from Sheryl Chow to the tune of 260 thousand dollars ( this money went to R8 school ) Sheryl Crow has a heart and compassion to help people hurting, grieving, and in need .. But they can not reach out and pay that same love and compassion .. They want to make every excuse possible not to give a grieving mother a memory chair with cap and gown draped over it... A CHAIR THAT COST NOTHING TO THE SCHOOL SYSTEM >>> THAT EMPTY MEMORY CHAIR WILL CAUSE NO HARM TO ANY ONE ATTENDING THIS GRADUATION !!!! ... 

Myself and a group of other mothers from around Carthage, Carterville, and Webb City area want to help this mother's voice be heard across America. One of us has lost a child, Carthage R9 just did it for family they never asked or had a fight... I myself went got permission to use our 1st Amendment right to hold peaceful civil protest and a chair for Zachary outside... I was told it would be no problem as long as I follow rules. We do not want to protest graduation but we will!

 We are planning on having civil protests in February, March, April and graduation if it comes down to that... We are working with the Joplin Police Department to get all paperwork filled and follow rules for civil peaceful protest... I am working every day to get national media to pick up this story... It was picked up today from a southwest Missouri paper and was in Houston Texas today... 

So Tammy Niederhelman is getting around America.... And people have made comments We are making Joplin R-8 school system look bad.... No, they did that to themselves... We are just trying to make Tammy Niederhelman's voice load enough they will meet with public and school mental health professionals and reconsider.

But Joplin High School's principal made a comment on local radio KSMU Radio .. If she got 5,000 signatures, she was not getting a chair... You can go listen for yourself.... So in other word we the people whose tax dollars, federal and state, rebuilt Joplin Schools,  we have no say.

No matter. This boy isn't just a number that passed away on May 22, 2011; this boy was a member of the Class of 2016!

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is another ridiculous decision by this idiitic school board. Yes, this new school board has shown their ass just as the last one did butbin a different fashion. This school district belongs to THE PEOPLE of Joplin, not you Jeff Koch! You should know better than make comments on social media. You are simply making things worse. This is becoming a regional to national news story as we speak. There are many in Joplin that will make that happen. The schools hand should be forced and the wishes of the vast majority should be taken into consideration. Change has to occur at some point. Joplin leaders need to realize they aren't the ones that making decision. They represent the will of the people, period. Longstanding to licies aren't etched in stone. They can be suspended or amended. That needs to happen in the case. This is totally disgusting!!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the school board.

Anonymous said...

Dear 11:58,
YOU are the idiot, and you cannot spell. Where does it say this was a decision made by the school board? The article states this was a decision made by the principal, students, and teachers. Stop trying to blame people for decisions they did not make. This struggle for publicity is only overshadowing the hard work of all the graduating students. I for one do not want to see my graduating son's joyous occasion turned into a somber event. Have you thought about the feelings of the graduating students who have to sit immediately to the left of the empty seat, the the right, behind, and in front? Wouldn't the somberness of a memorium to someone they did not go to high school with dampen what should otherwise be a joyful celebration? Since when do the rights of the departed take priority over the rights of the living? Now that the parents and people like you are trying to garner national media support by telling only half the story, the high school should not give in now or every parent with a disagreement will try the same thing. The high school has offered compromise, but the parents are apparently inflexible and are taking an all or nothing position. We need to move on from the tornado. In four years are we going to be hearing how MSSU is being insensitive because they will not leave an empty chair for this child at the graduation ceremony because he would have graduated with that class? This needs to end somewhere! You can have all the civil protests you want, but the people you are hurting are the students who are graduating. If that is your intent, then just keep doing what you're doing.

Anonymous said...

Please consider protesting or taking action on more pressing matters----there is so many other issues in our world that take precedence over the decision of a school district. I applaud social activism, let's just put it to work towards something that will have a greater reach!

Anonymous said...

Actually 1:31, YOU are the idiot in this. You are a heartless, spineless weasel. The parents aren't wanting to turn anything into a "somber event". In your incoherent rambling you forget that the family is STILL suffering four years later and always will. You are the type of person I would never be any to meet. My opinion is in the overwhelming majority. Look at Koch's Facebook page. Moron.

Anonymous said...

The decision is not of the school board, It was a decision by the BULLY Sachetta. The first time anything on this situation was by several students that knew Zach. Sachetta said he and his chroneys asked a majority of the senior class (a total of 25) what they wanted and they said the would be okay with it. The school then decided to include everything with the 5 year anniversary of all people that passed on that day. The parents want what happens in several school districts around Joplin, an empty chair with cap and gown and name mentioned during the ceremony. It helps with the grieving process for the parents as well as the students. Im sorry that some people may think this is a little overboard, we the people have the right to stand up to government and any of its entities. Just so you know there will be a chair at MSSU for him, it is guaranteed to be outside the auditorium if the school wont change their mind.This is far from over I a sure.

Anonymous said...

While the loss of any child is tragic, it appears that each year, at the high school graduation, fallen students have been honored and remembered. We each grieve in our own way - for those we have loved and lost. I do agree with the principal and those students & staff interviewed.
To insist that our loved one should be honored differently, in a more important or special way, while recognizing this mother's grief, is not fair or perhaps as thoughtful to other parents who lost children. I would hope this mother, and her supporters, would step back a bit, and thoughtfully consider those students who survived - left with perhaps deep scars of rememberance, who will be celebrating this great and happy milestone in the lives.

They survived while Zach and some did not. It would be a kind and thoughtful gesture to allow the already established way of honoring the fallen to continue and let those who graduate enjoy their moment on stage. Thoughts, prayers and best wishes to all...the living and the fallen.

Anonymous said...

I guess I could see protesting on more pressing matters, Maybe the number of students that come out of high school that can't count change, can't balance a checkbook, the amount of drugs in the high school. The list goes on and on. You need to educate yourself on the laws and policies the govern schools. This protest overshadowing the hard work of the graduating students, what a joke. The students don't have to do much to graduate from school anymore.

Anonymous said...

I always believed--according to what students are being told--is that once you enter kindergarten you become part of "that class of ..." The big push by the school district to increase graduation rate begins with enrollment. This student was a part of that--his chair could and should be held for him. What better way to reinforce community and compassion skills supposedly being taught by schools than to recognize the brevity of life, sympathy for family and friend loss, and understanding that life is indeed finite.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm confused as to why the parents of the deceased child feels as though a policy that has always been in place should suddenly be changed to accommodate what they want. The policy the district has in place to recognized students who have passed seems sufficient enough and has worked in years past, so I don't know why suddenly the policy is no longer good enough.

I have to question the parents motive behind what they're doing, I can't help but think they're just setting things up so that they can file a frivolous lawsuit against the district hoping to make some quick cash from a settlement or something.

I feel horrible for any parent who has lost their child, but it has been 4 years since the Joplin tornado and since the parents lose their child. I think it's time to move on, dwelling on it is only going to bring up raw emotions that could be avoided. I don't see this as benefiting anyone. We can't move forward as a community when we're focusing on what has happened in the past. The tornado is done and over with, it's been 4 years, it's time to move on.

Anonymous said...

I used to teach at Joplin Schools. If I remember correctly, that boy had only been a student in Joplin for a few weeks when the tornado hit us. That does not make his loss any less tragic and I know how a grieving mama feels. But he hasn't been a part of the class since kindergarten. He wasn't even going to be a freshman. He was in the 7th grade. A memorial at the end of 8th grade would have been better. I can't imagine how that mother feels moving and then losing everything including her beloved child. But the kids graduating wouldn't reallly have known him. I think what the school proposed is enough. She will see her child recognized just like all the other students lost on that horrible, horrible day. I don't know why she is imposing this desire for special treatment, but I think it's more for her sake than his. I can testify it takes some counseling to get over the loss of a child. I hope that she has had some grief therapy or that she gets some soon. Graduation day should be about a joyous accomplishment. I'm sorry she never got to see her son get his diploma. Neither did I. But I didn't think it was the school's job to make my memory for me. God bless to the students and staff in Joplin, and God bless the poor parents of this boy.

Susan Kozak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Well 2:06 pm, I obviously made some sound points to which you have no intelligent reply. Rather than posting well reasoned counter points, you resort to personal attacks. You are definitely not a good spokesperson for the parents' cause. Can you answer me this, how long was Zachary a student of Joplin Schools? Also, why should a celebration of the pentacle of the academic careers for more than 400 students yield to the demands of one set of parents? I do not envy Zach's parents for their loss-- the worst loss of any parent. But this should remain a private affair for them rather than a public one.

Anonymous said...

So, just where do these ladies intend to stage their protest? Are my children going to have to witness the histrionics on their way to class? Is this really the best and most mature method of handling this? I hear that the mother visited with the principal. I saw her bring the topic up with the school board. Did she ever visit with the superintendent? Not that anyone knows of. She went straight to social media and local media. This appears a ploy for attention. If it were truly just about her son, wouldn't she have followed the chain of command before going public with this? I feel sorry for her and any parent who loses a child. But this isn't the way to deal with that loss. Please don't make my children, who never knew your son, have to deal with your emotions.

Anonymous said...

2:06- the main posts I see on Kochs Facebook page are from the same three women, and I'm guessing I know which one you are since you're nasty on that page too. Do you have any children in the Joplin District or are you just a mouthpiece for Zachs mother? Shame on you for making a spectacle out of something that should be about those kids that are graduating. You should be embarrassed.

Anonymous said...

Take care that in being so determined to honor this youth you do not taint his memory with unreasonable and irrational conflict. The school has clearly made effort to consider this situation by consulting with various staff and students, has met with the parties concerned, found empathy in their hearts and determined it reasonable to include the deceased in their memorial. They do not appear to take these steps as a concession, but as a gesture of understanding and in keeping with precedent as well as with the memorial that will honor all.

If you choose to continue with this protest - and I don't simply mean the physical protest at the graduation, but also this public campaign - then you also choose to overlook and undermine the empathy and compassion that is being offered. You overlook that this is not simply his day, but the day of many students and staff who also passed away or who are graduating. You are essentially saying, "The manner in which you choose to honor our son is not enough, we deserve more", and in believing that you deserve more you also risk tainting his memory with associations of conflict and selfishness. This is not his fault, but I would imagine it unlikely that he would want to be remembered in such a way.

Should the conflict continue, in spite of that conflict, we will still empathize, remember him, and recognize that grief can potentially drive a person's relatives and friends to such extremes. Further, we will remember when our time comes that we must not be so consumed with our own emotional needs that we overstep our bounds and infringe upon the lives of others. There is a time for grief, and there is a time for humility. May peace be with you, as it surely is for the youth in question.

Anonymous said...

To the Joplin R8 school system.
Stop all this bull crappie and do what's right, PUT UP A DAMN CHAIR. God have school administration's become such cruel and heartless asshats that they can't even do one selfless act for a mother. Instead of asking students pick up the phone and ask your mother what is right. I bet she would say sonny PUT UP A CHAIR.

Anonymous said...

5:33 No kidding! And so what if they have to do it from time to time for another child. Place a chair, announce a name, what a burden! For the kids that knew him it will mean something. For those that do not know him, the disconnect should not be a burden to hear his name. Very strange coming from a school and community that prides itself on its religious beliefs of Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

An Empty Chair.....

Others School Districts do this all the time. I have been to at least 2 high school graduations in SWMO in the last 15 years where the empty chair is done.

JOPLIN R-8 needs to get with the program!!

Anonymous said...

lmftfy 7:14AM

Just what you'd expect coming from a school and community that prides itself on its religious beliefs of Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

I feel like someone is having a conversation with themselves...

Someone said...

Where was this mom throughout every event in the last year of East Middle School and the last four years of high school at JHS? I don't remember her voicing any opinion at meeting, social media, or I have not seen her at any Project Graduation event or meeting! Why now? Graduation? That is a celebration of achievements not a remembrance of what has been lost! I can't imagine her grief. I really feel sorry and pray that she finds her peace without disrupting the achievements of those wish to graduate just as many of us have done without controversy.

Anonymous said...

This new superintendent is turning out to be just like the other ass.

vicky coppedge said...

It doesnt have to be somberand hurting students ,have u talked to all 500 of them

vicky coppedge said...

Have u talked to all 500 graduating kids, and somber?? Maybe joyous for zachs family too, yes this should be a positive thing for zach,and ill be sure to be at the graduation wiyh a chair

vicky coppedge said...

There isnt any amt of money that could possibly make a mother feel better about losing her son , idiot!!!! Yeah ur so brave but sign anonymous, ur a joke

vicky coppedge said...

Its a flipping chair , omg

vicky coppedge said...

No she didnt, koch posted it according to my facebook

vicky coppedge said...

Hmmmm wondering who anonymous is talking about? Brave one mr or mrs-anonymous that wont print his or her name and who cares what u think

Anonymous said...

Actually the students are AGAINST it. They said NO. Its the kids who are graduating day. They worked hard for this day. Who's to say the boy would have even graduated. Plus he had only been at Joplin Schools for a few weeks before the tornado.

Anonymous said...

The kids in the class voted, and they voted NO. They are doing a lot more for Zach than they are for other kids in that class that passed away before starting their high school careers. Shame on the bullies that are bashing the kids on social media. BTW the lady that wrote the response letter needs to go back to school and learn how to write.

Anonymous said...

Dear 2:06,

Below is the type of "argument" that you are waging (for your edification). Quoted from www.logicallyfallacious.

AD HOMINEM (ABUSIVE)
argumentum ad hominem

(also known as personal abuse, personal attacks, abusive fallacy, damning the source, name calling, needling [form of], refutation by character)

Description: Attacking the person making the argument, rather than the argument itself, when the attack on the person is completely irrelevant to the argument the person is making.

Logical Form:

Person 1 is claiming Y.
Person 1 is a moron.
Therefore, Y is not true.
Example #1:

My opponent suggests that lowering taxes will be a good idea -- this is coming from a woman who eats a pint of Ben and Jerry’s each night!
Explanation: The fact that the woman loves her ice cream, has nothing to do with the lowering of taxes, and therefore, is irrelevant to the argument. Ad hominem attacks are usually made out of desperation when one cannot find a decent counter argument.

Example #2:

Tony wants us to believe that the origin of life was an “accident”. Tony is a godless SOB who has spent more time in jail than in church, so the only information we should consider from him is the best way to make license plates.
Explanation: Tony may be a godless SOB. Perhaps he did spend more time in the joint than in church, but all this is irrelevant to his argument or truth of his claim as to the origin of life.

Exception: When the attack on the person is relevant to the argument, it is not a fallacy. In our first example, if the issue being debated was the elimination of taxes only on Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, then pointing out her eating habits would be strong evidence of a conflict of interest.

Tip: When others verbally attack you, take it as a compliment to the quality of your argument. It is usually a sign of desperation on their part.

Variation: Needling is attempting to make the other person angry, taking attention off of the argument and perhaps even making the other person look foolish.

Georgianna Diener said...

This is not just about one child... It is about changing policy from this day forward.... We can not change the past ,, We can move forward with better policy for all parents who want THE EMPTY CHAIR FOR THEIR DECEASED CHILD NO MATTER HOW THEY DIED,

I totally admit I can not spell and have bad grammar, BUT MY HEART IN RIGHT PLACE !!!!
Jeff Kosh very unprofessional when he goes off public form, seeks me out comes in my private mail on facebook... I guess that was off the record stuff he did not want public to read.. I strong think the public needs to read, .

vicky coppedge said...

This shouldnt be about name calling and such, but then again names have-never hurt me personally, so with saying that, i-continue as my right, to stand up for my beliefs which is GIVE ZACH-A SEAT!!!! CHANGE THE POLICY, DO WHAT IT TAKES, WE CANNOT SAY THAT-ZACH OR-ANY OTHER STUDENT THAT PASSES ON WILL OR WILL NOT GRADUATE WITH HIS-CLASS, MAYBE HE WOULDNT OF BUT MAYBE HE WOULD OF WITH HONORS, WE JUST WANT CHANGE IN THE POLICY AND WHAT IS RIGHT FOR EVERY ZACH

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for Tammy's loss...it breaks my heart. But Zach is not a member of the graduating class of 2016. He never attended high school. They are going above and beyond, and actually changed their policy to include Zach. Shame on you for continuing to drag this out.

Anonymous said...

All this arguing makes me sad. Of course he should be honored but there is no need for all this drama. Why does she still expect everyone doing something special for her. I don't feel it's for her son but for her own grief. I am deeply sorry for her loss. Also have a chair for all suicides and car accidents. They'd have to have a whole empty chair section for all the loss of life!