Memorial policy passed

Board aims to create consistency for memorials


Harrison Barden

Wreaths decorated with orange ribbon outside of the high school honor Damian and Evan McManus in April 2014. With the new policy, memorials can be displayed for no longer than one week.

Adah Koivula

Past tragedies at Park influenced superintendent Robert Metz and the School Board to unanimously pass a policy Jan. 11 detailing how the administration will handle student and staff member deaths.

“We have had some deaths of students in the last several years, and because I was high school principal in the past, I knew that we didn’t have a policy guiding what to do when that happens,” Metz said.

Metz said he designed the policy to provide guidance to the administration in case of future tragedies. It contains a set of recommendations for how the administration should conduct memorial activities, such as permanent memorials, moments of silence and recognition at Graduation.

“The policy says ‘these things happen and we need to be prepared,’” Metz said.

According to former school board chair Julie Sweitzer, the policy attempts to discuss every memorial activity to set out guidelines for the future.MemorialPolicyWebIG

“The policy aims to describe any memorial or commemorative event from pictures on a wall to flowers on a school location; mention of a student at Graduation ceremony or any other kind of event that might happen,” Sweitzer said. “We tried to anticipate the many memorial activities and make some broad guidelines.”

According to Metz, irregularities existed in how the district dealt with past tragedies because of the lack of a reference.

“There is the potential for treating one situation very differently from the other. I thought it was important that we are somewhat consistent about what we do when a student or staff member passes away,” Metz said.

Senior Shea Swanson said she doesn’t see a need for the policy because the school can’t regulate grieving.

“I see the policy more as a way of handling students, rather than actually caring for them,” Swanson said. “I don’t believe each situation is always the same and shouldn’t receive the same treatment.”

Sweitzer said the school board recognized a need and responded in collaboration with Metz on a policy to fit the needs of Park.

“We thought there was a benefit to having parameters that guide the decision, but are flexible enough to allow some judgment on the particular circumstances without infringing on others’ grief,” Sweitzer said.

Metz said he presented the policy to the School Board in the fall, after which the board thoroughly reviewed it.

“I brought it to our School Board and they have now looked at it four times, at four different meetings,” Metz said. “Each time we have improved it a little bit, changed some words and thought about it some more. We have really taken our time.”