LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Posted May 5, 2020
Like many Central Illinois families, I was deeply disappointed by the rigid guidance recently issued by the Illinois State Board of Education for school districts regarding high school graduation, which permitted only virtual ceremonies.
Let’s be honest, if “virtual” graduation was the only option, thousands of high school seniors would have no graduation at all. Too many parts of Illinois are not connected and too many students would have been left behind.
I made my position clear to ISBE: no graduate should be left behind. In addition, I was well aware of work that was ongoing by local school districts to carefully and meticulously plan something special for their graduates balancing public health needs with the necessity to celebrate individual achievement.
While I was contacting the governor and ISBE to express my concern and urge them to reconsider the narrow rules, so were a group of Taylorville High School graduating seniors. Led by Molly Smith, they took swift action, issuing a well-articulated letter to Governor Pritzker making a strong case for allowing drive-thru graduation ceremonies that maintain social distancing guidelines.
The result was that one day later, ISBE issued revised guidance that permitted drive-thru graduations, as suggested in the students’ letter.
Thanks in part to their advocacy and advocacy of students across Illinois, Taylorville High School’s drive-thru ceremony will go on as planned after weeks of careful preparation. While traditional ceremonies won’t take place, thousands of high school seniors across the state will be able to celebrate their achievements at unique in-person ceremonies, planned by each local school district in the coming weeks.
To Molly, Eric, Tawney, Ashlee, Abby, Talia, Hailey, Myles, and Rylee, and the Class of 2020, I am truly sorry that this pandemic is impacting you in such a profound manner. At the same time, though, I want to publicly thank you for standing up on behalf of school districts and fellow graduating seniors in Illinois.
I am certain this won’t be the last time you effect change by speaking up to advocate for what you believe in.
State Senator Andy Manar