Mom Heartbroken After School Refuses to Honor Her Late Daughter at Graduation

Rachel Rosoff
Michelle Rosoff

A child's senior year is a bittersweet one for most moms, but Michelle Rosoff is facing the unbearable. In early September, her 17-year-old daughter Rachel died in a tragic accident while lifeguarding at a pool near her home in Wake County, North Carolina. Now, just a few months later, Rachel's school has refused her mom's request to honor her daughter at graduation. 

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Michelle shared an email from Rachel's principal at the William G. Enloe Magnet High School on Facebook last week that's quickly gone viral, explaining to her that the 17-year-old's name wouldn't be mentioned at graduation because the ceremony is supposed to have a "happy, vibrant feel" and "be a ceremony for students' accomplishments."

school refuses to honor dead student at graduation
Michelle Rosoff/Facebook

"They feel bringing up my daughter may cause sadness among the students, and they will not be equipped to handle it because they don't have counselors on hand," Rosoff tells CafeMom, "aka total BS."

When the teen died, there were school counselors on hand for grieving students, and months later they held a grief group for students who lost family members, Rosoff says. But she wasn't asking for anything much at the ceremony -- just acknowledgement that her daughter was also a part of the graduating class.

More from CafeMom: We Spent Months Preparing for Our Daughter's Death -- and We Still Weren't Ready

"I was hoping that someone can speak about her, but a moment of silence at this point is okay," she says.

It's not unheard of for schools to pay tribute during graduation ceremonies to students who have passed away. At some schools, a seat among the graduates is left empty for the student who has died, while at others the child's name is actually called out and a diploma awarded to their parents in their name. 

But it's a tough road for parents who are already grieving the loss of their child, to then have to face a fight with a school. 

"My heart is again broken," Rosoff says. "When you lose a child, your worst fear is that they will be forgotten, but I never imagined anyone would try and act as if she never existed. She was nothing but greatness."

Rosoff says the pain isn't just hers -- Rachel's friends are angry, her siblings upset. Rachel's sister Jordana is responsible for a petition that's already garnered more than 10,000 signatures, urging the school to reconsider:

I am writing this petition because her High school, Enloe, which I too attend, refuses to acknowledge my sister during graduation. They feel it may cause sadness and bring people down on a day that is suppose to be celebratory. They want to pretend she did not exist, which not only hurts me, but my family and her friends. This is so hurtful and wrong. I just want my sister to be recognized and acknowledged for the beautiful, goofy, funny, care free, caring person she was. She lived her life in a way we can all learn from, she was truly exceptional.

The school hasn't changed its mind, despite other students weighing in, calling for Rachel to be recognized. All this frustrates her mom, who says the message Jordana and her peers are getting is that "no matter how good you are, when you're gone, you no longer matter." 

She hopes that the kids learn something else from her standing up to the school. 

More from CafeMom: 

"I hope they learn from me how important it is to fight for what is right." 

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