Michigan School Bans Memorial T-Shirts for Cancer Victim, Causes Outrage
Caitlyn Jackson, a 12 year old sixth grader at Lakeview Middle School, had been fighting leukemia for years. On Saturday, she passed away at a hospital in Ann Arbor.
Her friends aimed to honor their lost friend by creating t-shirts in colors blue and orange. Blue was Caitlyn's favorite color, orange is the color for leukemia awareness. Some of the shirts even had Caitlyn's name on them. But when students arrived at school on Monday, administrators told them to change or turn their shirts inside-out, so that Caitlyn's name would not be visible.
The response was swift. Students and parents were shocked and outraged by the decision; some calling for the removal of those responsible. Lakeview's Superintendent, Dave Peterson, is out of the country on work-related business, so the district's finance firector, Amy Jones, who is acting as district chief, said the decision reflected the district's crisis management plan that bars "permanent memorials." In this case, the t-shirts were considered permanent.
Jones said research and expert opinion suggest that a memorial can make the grieving process more difficult for some. Caitlyn's mother, Melinda, who is an employee of the district, said hearing of the ban as she returned from Ann Arbor, was like having her already-broken heart ripped out and stomped on. Caitlyn's friends agreed.
Late in the day on Monday, district officials apparently came to their senses, acknowledging that their good intentions backfired. The district offered to let students wear their shirts on Tuesday, however, some students felt the damage had already been done.
The following appeared on Lakeview's Facebook page:
"During this time of grief, we sincerely regret that our actions caused additional stress for Caitlyn’s family and friends. Lakeview students, families and staff have supported Caitlyn and her family throughout her battle. Today we heard from students and families the need to allow students to continue showing their support of Caitlyn under these special circumstances by wearing shirts bearing her name."