Michigan School Forces Students To Remove Teeshirts Memorializing Schoolmate After Her Death From Cancer

Caitlyn-Jacksoncaitlyn13n-3-webI often express bewilderment at the actions of public school administrators particularly in their enforcement of zero tolerance policies. However, what happened at Lakeview Middle School was not only wrong but a bit creepy in the defense of a senseless policy with Dr. Phil-like pseudo-pyschological rhetoric. When sixth-grader Caitlyn Jackson, 12, died on Saturday, her classmates came up with a wonderful idea of making teeshirts in her favorite colors to honor her on Monday. Students spent the weekend preparing the teeshirts. However, when they arrived, school administrators ordered them to take off the t-shirts or turn them inside out or put tape over Jackson’s name. The reason? After hearing about the preparation of the students over the weekend, they decided it violated a ban on “permanent memorials” and was not healthy of students to be reminded of the loss. Of course, they did not tell parents and waited to traumatize the students at school. Eventually, after an outcry and anger from parents, the students were allowed to take the tape off and wear their teeshirts.

Jackson, 12, died after a long battle with Leukemia. These kids came up with a great way to directing their grief into making these teeshirts and remembering this little girl. The decision of the Administrator is mind-boggling. However, it was the later defense of the policy that seemed either insincere or thoroughly incompetent.

Amy Jones, the Lakeview finance director was acting as district chief while Superintendent Dave Peterson is out of the country “exploring a possible student exchange program.” Jones said that the policy was simply the reasonable application of their “crisis management plan” and was “based on a lot of research and expert opinion.” She insisted that “The intent was designed to protect the interests of all children.” She noted that the school district does not allow “permanent memorials” on the belief that such memorials remind students of their grief. She noted that the order to remove the t-shirts was handled “compassionately” with teachers explaining that by turning their shirts inside-out they could keep Caitlyn’s name “close to their heart.”

First, as with the zero tolerance decisions, the interpretation of the “permanent memorial” policy shows an utter lack of understanding or logic. This was not a permanent memorial. It occurred immediately after the death and involved the simple act of wearing teeshirts on the very next school day.

Second, it really does not matter how much “research and expert opinion” you solicit if it applies to a different situation. I find it hard to believe that any “expert” would prevent students from expressing their feelings the next school day in this artistic and personal way.

Third, the teachers were not compassionate but the school waited until the school day to strip or cover the shirts. That was not likely their fault. It was the fault of Jones and the administrators.

Finally, the holding her “close to their heart” was just creepy and even a 12-year-old would find it pseudo-psychological garbage. It comes off as virtually passive aggressive, not compassionate.

It was the school system that traumatized these kids with a blind, thoughtless application of its policy. As in other cases, it does not appear that anyone will be disciplined or reprimanded. The same administrator will continue undeterred in enforcing rules in the future. In the meantime, these kids showed more sense and compassion than the people assigned with teaching them.

Source: Battle Creek

29 thoughts on “Michigan School Forces Students To Remove Teeshirts Memorializing Schoolmate After Her Death From Cancer”

  1. I am amazed at this nonsensical logic. Under this logic, people should never have a funeral, a headstone or even keep pictures of their deceased loved one. Under this mentality, we should just knock down all of the headstones at Arlington right now.

  2. So, the superintendent is doing the job of the foreign language teacher, probably because it envolves getting away from the school district during work time. He puts a bean counter in charge of the kids. Hmmmmm. Bean counter immediately finds a way to show everyone who´s the boss. It is sad that it seems that more and more people are looking for any way to assert their authority and enforce stupid rules.
    RIP Caitlyn.

  3. Wow…nice to know some alleged educators/administrators are living up to the old saw about “Those who canNOT do (anything) teach”…in this case, they teach hat they have the power to be power-abusing jerks.

  4. In one of the underlying articles, an administrator refers to the special problems in responding to a suicide in the school. I wonder if the experts the finance director was referring to concerned materials related to that issue which does present particular challenges–obviously not present when dealing with death after a long illness.

  5. I wonder if that school has auditoriums, trophies etc named after folks who have died. A permanent memorial is a wrong thing. Guess they betternot take those kids to a field trip to the Lincoln Memorial. Assinine, in the extreme.

  6. I wonder how that school responds to any student instigated conduct. I also wonder about the wisdom of leaving the finance director in charge. Some of the traits that would make a good finance director may not be the best traits for the person in charge of children overall.

  7. Grief is not about what you remember. Grief will find a way. It’s the mind adapting to huge loss and the changes it brings. Bottle it up, mock it, come under the senseless thraldom of Amy Jones, and grief will do real, lasting damage. It has to be felt, it has to be allowed to dig the channels it will. Amy Jones evidently never lost a loved one.

    Nice video. Lock Amy Jones up with the Robot Chicken until she gets it.

  8. I am not a psychologist; but in my family the opposite was true; you bring up those that have died whenever you are reminded of them. If that made you cry or somebody else cry, so be it. That is how you work through grief.

    My late father’s policy. But it is a good one, I think, eventually the sadness burns down and is muted enough that you can be pleased with the good memories of them that you have; you can bring them up without bursting into tears, and laugh again at their jokes and stories and adventures, and be glad they were alive. Hiding grief is a bad idea, nobody knows (sometimes even you) why you are sad or angry. And I would feel shame if I pretended all those I lost, siblings and friends and people that cared for me or helped me, had just never existed.

  9. “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” -John Lennon

    I am sure all of you know this quote…..

  10. “She noted that the school district does not allow “permanent memorials” on the belief that such memorials remind students of their grief.”

    I really wonder what “experts” on human emotion believe that a remembrance of grief is traumatic, since the reverse is really true. Human mourning is a definable process. It is emotionally necessary to let the process run its course because the grief we experience at a loss, particularly a death, is a natural mechanism for healing. While the loss of someone really close will leave us residual pain throughout our lifetimes, by allowing the mourning process to works its way through, expressing our grief and crying, etc. with the comfort of those close to us, we can normally come to terms with the loss within about 6 months. These students came upon a way to express their grief that was brilliant. A public demonstration of unity in the loss was to supply them the comfort on letting out their grief, remembering a friend and dealing with their own fears of death. The children sadly showed far more wisdom and insight than did the school administration.

  11. The education industry does not attract the sharpest arrows in the quiver. And, like all bureaucracies, the shit rises to the top.

  12. Pfizer has one of it major chemical plants there….. It’s in the water I tell you…. This is just crazy…..

  13. The students received a valuable lesson in how adult humans can reach positions of respect and authority, and yet be tree stump stupid.

  14. Amy Jones, the Lakeview finance director was acting as district chief while Superintendent Dave Peterson is out of the country ‘exploring a possible student exchange program‘.” – JT

    A teacher exchange program would be more fitting for that institution.

  15. “Common sense is like deodorant, the people who need it most never use it.”

  16. As a forensic psychologist, I want to know where those “expert opinions” came from. My guess is that Amy Jones pulled them from her nether regions. When I read that, my BS detector went off and redlined.

    I do disagree with the Dr. Phil characterization. Before he became a media celebratory, Dr. McGraw was a licensed clinical psychologist, frequently consulting on high profile cases as a specialist in forensic issues. I think Phil would have about the same take on this as I do. Unfortunately, since I don’t want this comment to go to moderation limbo, I am behaving myself and won’t say exactly what I really think of Amy Jones and her harebrained notions of what is proper behavior.

    I am glad our local school management has more sense. When my youngest was in school, they had several tragic incidents. When she was in middle school one of the favorite teachers died suddenly and unexpectedly. The school let the kids have free rein to express their grief however they wanted. When my daughter was a senior, one of her friends collapsed and died in the corridor. Failed heart transplant. Again, the school administration not only did not meddle, they encouraged the kids to act on what they felt.

    The first American to die in the Afghanistan conflict was from here. His casket lay in state in the basketball gym, where they also held his funeral with full honors. The auditorium/gym was the largest venue in town that would handle all the turnout, including the entire school. His photo hangs in the commons area. It may help that the superintendent is a former paratrooper (Vietnam) and has some notion of how to encourage the kids to handle grief and anger.

    And John, regarding your barber school suggestion. You want that woman anywhere near a human head with sharp objects? I was thinking more along the lines of the city offering her a job at the local landfill where her “talents” would be used more appropriately.

  17. If this happened in our school Amy Jones would be looking for a new job…maybe send her to barber school…

Comments are closed.