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Glenelg Students May Wear Blue Ribbons at Graduation: HoCo Superintendent

The decision overturns Glenelg High School's move to bar students from paying tribute to the late Grace McComas.

Students who lost their friend Grace McComas to suicide as a sophomore asked to wear blue ribbons at the graduation ceremony this spring where she will be missed. Blue was Grace's favorite color.
Students who lost their friend Grace McComas to suicide as a sophomore asked to wear blue ribbons at the graduation ceremony this spring where she will be missed. Blue was Grace's favorite color.
Grace McComas would have graduated this spring from Glenelg High School. But on Easter Sunday in 2012, after being bullied online for months, she took her own life.

Since then, the McComas family advocated for legislation to protect minors from maliciousness on social media; as a result, "Grace's Law" was passed in 2013. Howard County has made efforts to curb bullying, including a series of forums in the coming weeks

But when former classmates of Grace McComas asked to honor her at Glenelg High's graduation on May 29 by wearing blue ribbons on their gowns, the school system denied the request.

Glenelg principal Karl Schindler said that students who wore ribbons that were blue—Grace's favorite color—on their graduation gowns would "glorify the death of Grace" and be kicked out of the ceremony, according to The Baltimore Sun.

After Grace's death in 2012, Glenelg denied a request to acknowledge the loss of the 15-year-old student with a moment of silence.

"She was hurt so much by that school, and now it seems like they are trying to dismiss her very existence," Christine McComas, Grace's mother, told The Baltimore Sun.

Superintendent Renee Foose reversed the decision about graduation at the Howard County Board of Education's Thursday meeting.

"We recently received a request from several students at Glenelg High School to wear blue ribbons on their robes to honor Grace McComas, a classmate who passed away in 2012," Foose said.

Although only academic honors are allowed to be displayed on students' caps and gowns at graduation per the school system's graduation guidelines, Foose said in response to requests, the administration had made an exception.

"In these situations, the schools work with the families to determine the most appropriate ways to express remembrance of students who have passed," Foose said. "The school has reached out to the McComas family to consider options for remembering Grace such as awarding a posthumous diploma and a scholarship in Grace's name."

She added that the school would allow students to wear blue wristbands during the graduation ceremony. Nothing was mentioned explicitly about ribbons, though Foose went on to say that she would honor the request.

"I don't want our collective desire to honor Grace to be overshadowed by debate around the method, which distracts from [her] memory," Foose said at the school board meeting. "If wearing a blue ribbon grants the McComas family and students and staff at Glenelg even just one moment of peace in their grief, then I will honor that request."

According to a post Friday on the Grace K. McComas Memorial Facebook page, the decision was more about saving face.

"Solving it quickly is a distraction from HCPSS mistakes and public scrutiny," the post said, "not Grace's memory."

According to The Baltimore Sun, Christine McComas was not sure whether she would attend the ceremony.

Related:
Michael March 29, 2014 at 11:38 PM
The only reason school Superintendent Renee Foose reversed her original decision is because of the immediate and intense outcry by Howard Co. residents, current and former Glenelg High School graduates, and the intervention of Maryland State Senator Allan Kittleman. There was also a damning news article and petition which quickly garnered over 1700 signatures. ................................. Good things did happen once sanity and common sense prevailed over the stupidity of Howard County School Superintendent Renee Foose and Glenelg Principle Karl Schindler, two of the supposedly intelligent adults supervising our children in school. Read the original Baltimore Sun article to see how inflexible these two really were before being embarrassed into changing their stance. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-reimer-blue-for-grace-20140326,0,4695648.column
Wendy Woods March 30, 2014 at 04:39 PM
I think we have forgotten whose graduation this is ... if a graduating class wants to pay tribute to a classmate who has died before graduation, I don't see why they should even need to ask. Oh - I am a 1972 graduate of Howard High. We wouldn't have asked ....
Christine McComas April 02, 2014 at 09:24 PM
The family of Grace McComas is very thankful for the community support.

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