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Deceased C.E. Byrd student to be honored at graduation after community outcry

Mackenzie Jewitt
Mackenzie Jewitt(change.org)
Published: May. 6, 2022 at 12:00 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - A student at C.E. Byrd High School who passed away suddenly will be honored at graduation after a change.org petition was started to have the teen included in the ceremony.

Caddo Schools released this statement just before noon on Friday, May 6:

Caddo Parish Public Schools is committed to honoring the life and legacy of former students that pass during their high school years. In doing so, a new procedure that applies to district high school graduation ceremonies will include a vacant chair to honor where the passed student would have been seated and their name will be listed in the program and called out in alphabetical order. A parent or designee may also receive the diploma or honorary diploma on stage during the ceremony.

The procedure goes into effect immediately and will apply to all 2022 graduation ceremonies.

Charnae McDonald | Director of Communications

Mackenzie Jewitt died from a medical condition on March 24. She was set to graduate from high school on May 26. The petition, started by Raylette Pinkston, says Mackenzie had a heart transplant seven years ago, but that it didn’t hold her back from being an active kid; she even played basketball for the Lady Jackets.

The petition goes on to say the principal of the school, Jerry Badgley, denied Mackenzie’s parents’ request to have her honored at graduation by leaving a seat open for her and calling her name, followed by a moment of silence. Badgley’s reported reason for denying the request: it would be a distraction.

As of noon on Friday, nearly 15,000 people had signed the petition to have Mackenzie included in the graduation ceremony.

“This is devastating that a school that Mackenzie has spent all four of her high school years with are treating her as if she’s not a part of the graduating class of 2022. Many of her friends have expressed that they want to honor her at graduation. Some have even suggested and wanted a mini slideshow to give them one last time of celebrating something so monumental in honor of a classmate that they love so dearly,” the petition reads.

The People’s Promise Youth Division also released a statement about the situation:

“What is happening at CE Byrd high school is a tragedy. Every student in Caddo Parish should be honored at graduation. The People’s Promise Youth Division urges Dr. Goree and the Caddo Parish School Board to push Mr. Bagley to honor Mackenzie Jewitt at CE Byrd’s graduation. Mackenzie’s hard work and dedication to Byrd should not be ignored, and her life should be honored and celebrated by her peers and teachers at the school’s graduation. High schools across the nation historically have honored students that have had unexpected passings, and Mr. Badgley should do the same. Parents and students should not have to create a petition for their passed loved ones to be honored. All Caddo Parish School principals should have the sympathy and good heart to honor all students that have graduated. All principals have the responsibility to honor and cherish the lives of all students in Caddo Parish. ‘We Are Caddo’ is the Caddo Schools motto. We will not be part of a Caddo that actively seeks to exclude Mackenzie.”

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