Mother upset over revised Norris policy regarding memorials & graduation

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Just this month, the Norris School Board voted to revise its policy on gifts, memorials and graduation.

Now, a mother who lost her daughter in a car crash, wants to know why she won't be specifically included at graduation.

Right now Brianna Titterington would be 18 years old and weeks away from her high school graduation.

Unfortunately, she was killed in a car accident last March.

Now, her mom is asking for a few things at the ceremony.

However the superintendent told 10/11 the purpose of a graduation ceremony is to honor graduating seniors.

A navy graduation cap with '19 on it won't be worn on May 19th.

And it's all April Jensen has to honor the day her daughter Brianna would have been graduating.

Her mom wants to see her daughters name in the Norris graduation program, an empty seat, and to get a diploma.

"It's not going to be like this, oh my gosh everybody remembers that Brianna is not here now. We're all well aware. And the fact that her name isn't called, is going to be louder than if it was called,” said April Jensen.

Jensen says she sent dozens of letters and attended Norris School Board meetings but says the district just keeps referring her to its policy, one 10/11 discovered was changed two weeks ago.

The highlighted lines in the policy, are what school board members approved changing on April 10th.

On April 10, 2019 the Norris Board of Education passed a revised policy for gifts and memorials. The revisions approved in that meeting, are specific to graduation. Norris' commencement ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, May 19th at 3:00 p.m.

Superintendent John Skretta told 10/11 in an email, "The Board amended its policy to allow for general memorial recognition at commencement which includes a floral display and announcement."

The additions state "The following statement will be included each year in the graduation program: 'The bouquet on stage is displayed in remembrance of anyone who could not be here today with the Senior Class of 20_.'"

It also outlines what is not allowed during graduation.

It says, “No personalized participation on the behalf of a deceased student/staff member. No moment of silence or dedication of a specific person is allowed at commencement”.

Also changed, “If a deceased senior had completed their requirements for graduation, his or her name shall be included in the program, and a diploma will be presented to the family in a private setting".

Since Brianna was a junior when she died, she doesn't qualify.

Norris' Superintendent responded to our questions about this situation, he says the district policy is, "Aligned with other local schools."

Jensen told 101/1 Brianna's friends raised money for a tree to be planted outside of the school in her memory.

District policy does allow that to happen. Superintendent Skretta told 10/11 in an email the district also allows families "to honor the memory of an individual through a scholarship, tree planting or commemorative landmark."

The policy states, "Plantings on school grounds, with prior approval of the Superintendent and acceptance by the Board of Education. A name plate my be provided, with wording limited to the name of the planting and "In Memory of" the legal name of the person memorialized, and dates of birth and death. Plates may be removed after ten years and offered to the family of the person memorialized. Plaques and markers for landscape plantings shall be placed in a manner that will not interfere with maintenance operations."

"What does it matter if they give me an honorary diploma? Brianna is not going to school with it, nobody is going to do anything with it, it's just special to me,” said Jensen.

Jensen will still attend graduation, for Brianna.

But wishes the district could have met her somewhere in the middle.

"If it makes waking up in the morning a little easier for that mom that family, then I think that's an amazing gift. Because there's not a lot you can do to take away a parents pain after losing a child,” said Jensen.