After being forced to sit in the audience for the graduation ceremony, a high school student with a disability reports feeling “robbed.”

A student with impairments from Tennessee is speaking out despite the fact that the graduating ceremony left her with a sour taste in her mouth.

Kennedy Lee claims that she and two other students who were graduating from Greenfield High School were forced to sit in the bleachers with the audience rather than with their classmates at the ceremony that took place on May 17th.

“It does make me very emotional, not just because it did happen to me, but it did happen to people that I care about,” Lee, who suffers from postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) as well as a functional neurological impairment, says in an interview with individuals. “It makes me feel extremely sad for the students of the future who might be treated in such a manner.”

Jeff Cupples, the Director of Schools for Weakley County, said in a statement that was shared with PEOPLE that all of the district’s graduation ceremonies are scheduled to protect the safety of all attendees.

According to the conclusion of the statement, “Weakley County Schools does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, disability, national origin, gender, age, political affiliation, or beliefs.”

Until the very last day of courses, Lee was under the impression that she would be able to proceed with a typical graduation ceremony with the other students. Subsequently, the person in charge of the school called her mother.

According to Lee’s recollection, “She informed us that we would be putting ourselves in a wheelchair, that we would not be able to walk, and that we would not be seated with our classmates.” It should come as no surprise that my mother, upon hearing this, was quite disturbed. Hearing this information made me extremely sad, and as a result, we did all in our power to combat it.

A graduation practice was conducted at the school on May 16, and Lee informed the principal that she had obtained a letter from her doctor stating that she was okay to walk during the occasion. In response, she claims that the principal responded by saying, “We would see how practice goes.”

 

Consequently, according to my thinking, I believed that if I saw how the practice went, it would imply that I would have the opportunity to practice graduation just like everyone else,” she clarifies. “But I was completely and utterly wrong.”

“Whenever the graduation practice came around, we were instructed to sit on the bleachers, and our classmates would sit on the chairs. This was a very humiliating experience for us at the time because we were seated and looking directly at our classmates,” explains Lee. “It was more like we were watching our classmates graduate than we were actually graduating with them,” said one of the students.

Lee claims that after the event, they were informed that they would be required to sit in the bleachers for the real ceremony, and that they would not be able to walk to pick up their diplomas if there was not a nurse there.

Furthermore, in spite of her best attempts, that is precisely what transpired on the day of her graduation.

Lee has said that she did give some thought to abstaining from attending the ceremony, but in the end, she chose not to do so.

She expresses her disappointment by stating, “It really hurt that I was not given these same opportunities as my other classmates, and my entire high school career has turned out to be abnormal.” In other words, I simply wanted to have one night in which I could be a regular student and be treated like a normal student, but I was denied that opportunity.

When asked about the statement made by the school district, Lee responded by saying that she could understand the action as a precautionary measure. With that being said, she continues by saying, “They could have easily seated us alongside our other classmates and had a nurse sit next to us.” It was not necessary for them to partition us off from the rest of our students…They had the potential to do far better.

She has said that the reason she is making this matter public is to ensure that another kid does not have the same experience. The statement made by Lee is that “everyone deserves the same opportunities.” It is a highly significant event, particularly for kids who do have impairments, to graduate from high school. This is a significant accomplishment, and they are deserving of participating in the graduation ceremony just like every other student.

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