Monday, March 31, 2014

The Absence of Grace

This is a post that I do not want to write.
This is a post that I should not have to write.
I sat with this all weekend, wrestling with whether my involvement would shed any light on the darkness. When I awoke this morning, these words spurred me to action. "She existed. She mattered."
So let's talk about Grace.
simple elegance or refinement of movement.
courteous goodwill.
an attractively polite manner of behaving.
a divinely given talent or blessing
do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one's presence.
Postings on Facebook alerted me to the issue. This piece by Susan Reimer filled in the blanks.

Friends directed me to the Grace McComas Memorial Webpage on Facebook.

In brief--friends of Grace McComas, who committed suicide in response to horrific trauma and subsequent bullying, requested that they be permitted to wear blue ribbons at graduation to remember her. This would have been her graduation year. The principal refused their request, citing schools system policies, and direction from Central Office as well.

In regard to the policies cited for denying the request, this piece by Board member Brian Meshkin and this open letter by Damon Krometis make it clear that precedent does not support that claim
Take the time to read the Susan Reimer piece. Why? Because it shone a very public light on what was going on. After it appeared, this happened:

While it now seems that Grace will be remembered at graduation (thanks to you!), we should all be seriously concerned at the less-than-candid public responses from the school system, which suggested that they were waiting to discuss plans with our family before making decisions.

This is simply FALSE.

What follows is my response to the supportive board member who shared this link which contains the good news:

"As yesterday’s Baltimore Sun commentary suggests, Principal Schindler had absolutely NO intention of mentioning, remembering or honoring Grace in any way whatsoever.
That was clear before my post of 3/24. My first ever call from anyone from the school system since her death was on the afternoon of 3/25. In a sly attempt to avoid controversy and transparency, calls to our family were made only AFTER it was clear people were upset by hearing of the issue and that the press had gotten wind of it. Grace’s friends had already met with him, and EVERY SINGLE SUGGESTION they made to remember her LIFE was met with a firm negative response, supposedly because of his erroneous belief that it would 'glorify' suicide. This week he told parents that he was ‘not a psychologist’, but that his attitude about this was formed by those higher up in the school system. Please kindly 'educate' HCPSS personnel that this stigmatizing, deeply insulting, and hurtful response to suicide (much less BULLIED suicide) is out of date and grossly unacceptable! Is there no set way planned to deal with the tragedy of student loss within the system?? There should be. Future loved ones and friends should be spared this compounded agony....--Christine Pfister McComas

What I am seeing here is a clear disparity between what the school system said and did before the Baltimore Sun piece came out, and afterwards. Suddenly, when given a chance to respond in a subsequent article in the Sun, Superintendent Foose said,"If wearing the blue ribbon offers the McComas family and students and staff at Glenelg even one moment of peace in their grief, then I will honor that request," (she said at Thursday's school board meeting.)
One of the greatest lessons we teach our children is that honesty and integrity are more than being good when someone is watching you. The true measure of a moral life is choosing the right and telling the truth even when your actions may be covered by darkness. It is not too much expect our school system to live out that lesson in our community.
No one has more right than Grace's mother to call out this failure, and she adds,
Why is it so difficult to admit mistakes? Honesty, integrity and accountability are what true leadership is about. Kids are watching, and I am so very proud of the fledgling adults who stood up and spoke out against an injustice at Glenelg.
I have been wondering whether I, as an adult, should participate in the #bluepinkyproject which has been launched in Howard County by Jaki Ulman to address bullying. Now I know I will, because blue = blue for Grace . We should all stand up to bullying, wherever it occurs.

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