A planned appearance by Michelle Obama has drawn criticism from the students and parents of a Kansas high school. Obama was scheduled to be the guest speaker at a Topeka high school graduation ceremony.
Obama’s appearance, set for May 17, at the Topeka high school was planned to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case, Brown vs. Board of Education. The case was brought against Topeka, Kansas, by a group of African American parents.
Many are concerned Obama’s appearance would limit the number of available tickets for students and their families, set to take place in an 8,000 seat arena. Some are also worried that politics might take a front seat on a day that’s meant to honor the students.
Ron Harbaugh, spokesman for the Topeka Kansas school district, said: “It’s more about that they can’t get their entire family in and they have to change some arrangements for parties. That’s what’s causing the concern,” It’s not that they dislike their speaker. They are excited about having the first lady, and overall it’s been very positive.”
The report from The Washington Post said graduating students heard rumors they would be limited to only four tickets instead of six. The worries of one student, Taylor Gifford, moved her to start an online petition against Obama attending the ceremony. (Please note: The report says the petition was started by Taylor Gifford but was actually started by Taylor Rose which currently has over 2,220 signatures.)
Gifford said: “People think it’s a great opportunity, but it’s the graduates’ time. They are getting that diploma that they worked so hard for. Families are feeling that they are being cheated out of the [sic] loved ones special day.”
The petition states in part:
We are honored to have the First Lady speak at commencement and the student body was literally crying and jumping for joy when the news was announced and we are in no way shape or form ungrateful for what the Board has done for us.
There are problems that come with the combining of the commencements. First of all, for most families in 501, money is short and we have spent hundreds of dollars buying graduation announcements that are now incorrect. The district has stated they will not refund this. Topeka High School’s graduation on its own takes approximately two and a half hours.
The combining of five high schools will increase that to about six hours. With increased security the total time will be brought up to eight hours. Secondly, families have many people coming from states away taking sick leave to see the graduation.
They will come to Topeka, only to find that they cannot be involved. Those with divorced families have to choose which side of the family they want to invite, this doesn’t even include siblings.
This isn’t the first time a planned Obama appearance at a graduation ceremony has drawn criticism from parents of graduating students. Politico reported, in 2009, school districts across America fielded complaints from angry parents who believed Barrack Obama wanted to indoctrinate their children.
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