LAWSON, Mo. — A Kansas City-area teen has been told she won’t be able to take part in her school’s graduation ceremony because she finished school too quickly.
“I do not feel like a graduate should be punished for succeeding,” Taylor Smith said.
Smith, who already purchased her cap and gown, has started a petition to be able to walk with her classmates she started first grade with at Lawson R-XIV Schools after graduating at semester earlier this year, foregoing the rest of her senior year.
Smith completed all the requirements to graduate from Lawson High in seven semesters instead of the usual eight.
“They almost treated me as if I’d dropped out,” she said.
“I feel like it’s very unfair they’ve worked their whole lives since five years old to get to this point. It’s a parents dream, its part of a child’s dream in one of the many steps in their lives of walking across that stage getting their diploma,” her mother Nicole said.
The school district said graduating early is a choice that comes with consequences.
As outlined on page 29 of the Lawson High School Student/Parent handbook: Should a student graduate “early”, they will not be allowed to return for the end-of-the year graduation ceremony, nor allowed to participate in activities normally reserved for high school students, to include: any/all interscholastic competitions, the Junior-Senior Prom (unless as the date of a current member of the Lawson Junior or Senior Class) and other activities/events as indicated by the high school principal.
“Students understand that if they want to graduate early this is how it is, they sign a form,” Interim Superintendent Dr. Bill Nicely said.
Smith said teachers and administrators encouraged her to take extra classes beyond the graduation requirements second semester, but she made the best choice based on her own mental health.
“It was kind of my big step to deciding to put myself first because it was school work, school work and myself last,” Smith said.
Since picking up her diploma, the family said its learned nearly every surrounding district allows early grads to walk. But Lawson’s interim Superintendent said once students leave school early, they have no idea how they’ll behave when they return.
“People in our community, they want their parents students and family to have a memorable experience that they can remember for the rest of their lives. When we don’t have that relationship with those students because they’ve graduated and gone on we can’t guarantee that,” Nicely said.
“I feel like its being an outcast. They are going to be up there calling names and her name is not going to be called and we are going to be sitting right there at graduation and that’s pretty sad,” her mother said.
Taylor and her mom plan to attend the next school board meeting and take the results of the change.org petition with them.
Nicely said the Lawson R-XIV School Board could review the policy and make changes but if it does those wouldn’t go into effect until at least next school year.
Smith said she understands the likely reality of the situation, but also wanted to stand up for future students dealing with mental health issues, or wishing to graduate early to attend college or the military.