Idaho school moves forward with graduation despite safety concerns | #schoolsaftey

KELLOGG (The Spokesman-Review) — Kellogg High School’s graduation ceremony went off “without a hitch” Saturday, a day after school officials announced it would have to be canceled because of safety concerns over “outside groups and agitators.”

Kellogg School District Superintendent Lance Pearson said the district met with graduating students’ parents Friday night and decided to call off the abrupt cancellation. But one senior and his family said the change in plans for the ceremony was “rushed,” and some members of the family were unable to attend.

“Postponing it and then redoing it the dame day in that short amount of period just really threw everybody off,” said Alexander Rodriguez, who participated in the ceremony. “The scheduling could have been a lot better.”

Pearson said it all started when a senior delivered scheduled remarks to the student body at a Tuesday assembly but “he went off script,” with his words causing “a huge disruption.” Pearson declined to go into details about the remarks, but media reports said they were to the effect of “boys are boys and girls are girls, and there’s no in between.”.

Pearson said the student was on “thin ice” for other things, and as a result of the latest incident the school principal decided he could not participate in Saturday’s ceremony.

The punishment sparked an uproar among some in the community and an unidentified group outside the community.

Ali Koski, who last year founded Silver Valley Pride, said only recently have there been same-sex couples attending prom and out transgender or nonbinary students in schools in Shoshone County. The growing desire of LGBTQ youth to be open about themselves has caused tension in the community, she said.

“Our community is right at the tipping point,” Koski said while she was working at a Silver Valley Pride booth at Pride in the Park in Coeur d’Alene on Saturday.

“Trans people have always existed in the Valley,” Koski said “For the most part, they stayed in their home.”

Pearson said Shoshone County Sheriff Holly Lindsey told him that as many as 300 protesters from outside Kellogg could show up to the graduation, and she worried that could be too many for local law enforcement to handle.

“We did receive word that a large number of protesters were coming from out of county to organize with our local cause; however, the group is known for violence during protests which is concerning,” Lindsey wrote on the sheriff’s office’s Facebook page Friday. “In the last few days, KHS also received several phone calls threatening violence. Due to the threat of violence, the Kellogg School District made the decision to cancel tomorrow’s graduation.”

She wrote that deputies were present Friday for a student-led peaceful protest at Kellogg High School that day. That protest was in support of the student who was barred from walking, local media reported.

Pearson said the school district decided at 2:30 p.m. Friday to cancel Saturday’s graduation, set for 2 p.m. He said school officials met with concerned parents outside the district office shortly after that and then at 6:30 p.m.

He said they decided to hold the ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday because it coincided with Pride in the Park in Coeur d’Alene, where protesters who perhaps planned to show up at the school would be.

He said they tried to keep the ceremony “under the radar” for those safety reasons.

“In the end, we came together as a group to say the peripheral noise is not as important as our kids getting to go through graduation,” he said.

Tina Karst, school district’s special-education director, said no one protested outside the school at Saturday’s ceremony. Pearson said local law enforcement agencies were on hand to ensure safety.

“The actual graduation itself could not have been smoother,” Pearson said.

He said 72 seniors graduated, but eight chose not to participate. The ceremony, which took place at the high school, was packed with seniors’ loved ones.

Pearson said he hated having to postpone the graduation and apologized to students.

Rodriguez and his mother, Holly Armijo, said the ceremony felt rushed, and some of their family members were unable to attend because of the lack of communication from the school district and last-minute schedule changes. Rodriguez was celebrating his graduation at a Kellogg park Saturday afternoon.

Armijo said she attended Saturday’s ceremony but was unable to attend the parents’ meeting with school officials Friday night because she was not in town.

“It didn’t have much spirit around it, and it just didn’t feel right,” Armijo said of the ceremony.

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