In memory of 12-year-old Caitlyn Jackson who passed away Saturday from leukemia, fellow students and friends at Lakeview Middle School wore t-shirts in her favorite colors, blue and orange, some printed with her name.
It was a touching tribute to the girl that they supported with fundraisers and benefits throughout her brave battle with cancer that lasted for nearly 4 years.
So it was especially surprising to students and parents when on Monday school grief counselors at the Battle Creek, Michigan school told them that they would have to either change their shirts or choose to turn them inside out or cover Caitlyn’s name with duct tape. It was a decision that Lakeviewadministrators said they made on Sunday night without notifying parents. 11-year-old Jaidyn Bellinger told the Battle Creek Enquirer, she was issued a detention during lunch because of her shirt adding, “It actually made me feel pretty bad that I couldn’t express myself for Caitlyn…Because I wanted to let people know how bad it feels to lose someone like that.” District officials deny that any administrative discipline was issued.
Judith Whitney, a grandparent of a Lakeview student said, “It’s really a shame. They wore these t-shirts in remembrance of their friend and um, I just think they should have done it. It was part of their healing process you know.” Other parents echoed those sentiments telling WWMT Newschannel 3 they felt the children did nothing wrong. When Melinda Jackson, Caitlyn’s mother who also works at the school as a childcare provider, heard about the T-shirt ban she said, “I didn’t think my heart could break anymore. Not only did they do that, they tore a piece of my heart out, rolled it up, threw it on the floor and stomped on it.”
The administrators sited a district policy that prohibits student memorials as the reason for their unpopular decision to ban the t-shirts. 13-year-old Gracie Macphee said, “We got called down to the office and like, they’re like, ‘It triggers too much emotion,’ and it’s like you’re forcing people to mourn.” As reported by the Battle Creek Enquirer, acting school district chief Amy Jones explained that that policy stems from the district’s “crisis management plan” which she said is “based on a lot of research and expert opinion.” In that plan, “permanent memorials” are prohibited because they say research has shown that memorials may serve as reminders that could potentially worsen grief for some.
In response to that, Caitlyn’s mom felt, “To me this was not a memorial. his was just a way of the students expressing themselves to honor Caitlyn who they had been by. The majority of these kids have known her through her entire 3 and half year battle with cancer.” Amy Jones told the paper, “Certainly the intent of our decision was good,” then admitted, “Probably the ramifications of our decision caused more disruption than if we had let kids wear the shirts in the first place.”
After the strong negative reaction to the school’s t-shirt ban, the school district met and decided late on Monday to lift the ban and that they wouldallow students to wear the t-shirts on Tuesday. The school issued a formal apology, which read in part: “During this time of grief, we sincerely regret that our actions caused additional stress for Caitlyn’s family and friends.”
A candlelight vigil to honor Caitlyn has been planned by her parents at their home this Sunday night at 6pm where hundreds are expected to turn out and show their support.