The plan for Michelle Obama to speak at the combined high school graduation ceremonies in Topeka, Kansas, is drawing complaints from parents and students and an online petition hoping for change, as it were.
Ordinarily, the five Topeka high schools conduct separate ceremonies. Instead, on May 17, all seniors will receive their diplomas in a mass commencement at the 8,000-seat capacity Kansas Expocentre so that they can hear the First Lady’s speech in person.
For students and their families, the main but not only issue is one of logistics: “For some, it was the prospect of a tight limit on the number of seats allotted to each graduate. For others, it was the notion that Obama’s speech, tied to the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregation in schools, would overshadow the student’s big day.”
Reportedly, each graduate’s family will only receive four tickets to the graduation rather than the come-one, come-all procedure for friends and relatives typically in effect for the separate Topeka graduation ceremonies.
One student, who is otherwise a Michelle Obama fan, launched a Change.org online petition calling on the school board to revert back to the traditional graduation ceremonies, and the petition has about 1,500 signatures so far.
Said one parent about being unable to invite all of her family members to her son’s graduation, “… They’ve taken the glory and shine from the children and put on Mrs. Obama. She doesn’t know our kids.” She added that “This is not fair, what it’s doing. My son is more important than Michelle Obama.”
Another student commented that “No disrespect for the first lady, and it’s amazing that she wants to come speak, I just think it doesn’t belong at graduation.”
In a poll taken by a local Topeka news website, about 70 percent of the respondents indicated that the combined graduation ceremony imposed a hardship on the loved ones of the graduates, and that the school board should come up with an alternative plan.
Concerned parents showed up at a school board meeting on Thursday to urge reconsideration of the Michelle Obama invite to the Topeka combined high school graduation ceremony.