Righting a wrong
Until school officials in Carrollton, OH, reversed their decision early this week, senior Austin Fisher was not to be allowed to walk across the stage with his high school graduating class because he has 16 absences, two more than allowed, even though he says the absences were incurred while caring for his terminally ill mother.
Austin’s mother, Teresa Fisher, has battled breast cancer for six years and last year was told her cancer is terminal. Austin is the only one home with his mother, so much of her care falls on him. He says his absences occurred while taking his mother to and from her treatments and caring for her when she was bedridden after returning home. The 17-year-old has also worked some to help with the family finances.
In an interview with a TV station, Austin said school officials told him that guidelines are guidelines and they couldn’t change the decision. Seeing him wear his cap and gown and cross the stage was one of his mother’s goals, Austin said. But, he said, he would not change what he did. “Family first,” he said.
The decision to bar Austin from taking part in commencement brought strong reaction and the situation gained national attention. Classmates began an online campaign called “Let Fish Walk” and began an online petition to convince Carrollton school officials to change the policy. The campaign garnered more than 85,000 signatures.
Last Monday, school officials met with Austin and his mother and then based on “additional information” provided to them at the meeting decided to permit Austin to take part in commencement.
A right decision has replaced a wrong one.
Whether this decision resulted from additional information, as announced, from public pressure, or from a combination of these, it was the right thing to do. Guidelines and policy are necessary to the smooth and effective operation of an organization, including a school system, but on occasion common sense and understanding compassion make it right to grant an exception.
Based on the known information in this case, it appears that this was one of those times an exception was in order.