Protesting students lay out alternative to graduation plans

Southbridge seniors have protested at school, town hall

📸 “Home of the Southbridge Pioneers” photo of June 2 student protest at Southbridge Town Hall.

SOUTHBRIDGE — Six days and two protests after graduation plans have been announced, one local student has penned a proposal for school district officials.

On Wednesday afternoon, Rayann Carl, a senior at Southbridge High School, published a letter to Southbridge Public Schools Receiver/Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Villar. In the letter, Carl states she speaks “on behalf of the senior class.” She is one of several students who have actively protested the district’s graduation plans in the last week.

Adjusting traditional plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Southbridge High School has invited graduating seniors and their families to come to the high school on Torrey Road on Wednesday, June 10 to receive their cap and gown, diploma, and the opportunity to take part in traditional graduation activities, such as the flipping of the graduation cap’s tassel and professional photographs. School officials announced last week that video would be taken and used as part of a virtual commencement ceremony on June 19. The virtual graduation would be viewable on local cable access television, YouTube, and Facebook.

Those plans were not sufficient for some of those graduating students, resulting in a protest in front of Southbridge High School on Friday, and another on the steps of Southbridge Town Hall on Tuesday.

In Carl’s counterproposal to the district’s plans, students are “advocating for a drive-thru graduation and car parade around town after receiving our diplomas.” She cited a similar event held for graduates of Shepherd Hill Regional High School in Dudley, and suggested protesting students have received “massive support.”

The senior’s proposal suggests students receive graduation caps and gowns in order to decorate mortar boards prior to a ceremony on June 19 or June 20. In the proposal, Carl suggests vehicles line up across the high school parking lot and drive one-by-one to receive a graduate’s diploma upon their respective names being called. Following the distribution of diplomas, Carl suggests vehicles follow a parade route through the town “to celebrate our accomplishments with the community.”

Additionally, Carl proposes the high school follow through with the virtual component of its announced graduation plans.

“We believe this to be the best comprise [sic] for being able to maintain and follow the guidelines set in place to keep us safe, but also to celebrate the class of 2020 and all of our accomplishments and obstacles we’ve been able to overcome,” she said.


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