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The High School That Wanted A "Happy, Vibrant Feel" For Graduation Has Now Decided To Acknowledge A Dead Student

The North Carolina high school has now decided to acknowledge the student lifeguard after days of public outrage and pressure from her mother.

Last updated on May 15, 2017, at 2:41 p.m. ET

Posted on May 8, 2017, at 1:58 p.m. ET

A high school in North Carolina has reversed a decision not hold a memorial for Rachel Rosoff, a 17-year-old who died last year, after friends and family fought to have her acknowledged at the school's graduation ceremony in June.

Rachel was electrocuted and drowned while working as a lifeguard at the Heritage Point Pool in September. She would have graduated from the William G. Enloe Magnet High School in June. For days, family and friends slammed the school for refusing to have a memorial for Rachel during the graduation ceremony. The school had said that it would not acknowledge Rachel during graduation "based on guidelines recommended by the National Association of School Psychologists." The school's principal told Rachel's mother that the reason for not having a memorial for her daughter was because the graduation ceremony was meant to be a "celebration" and they wanted to ensure it "maintains a happy, vibrant feel."On Monday, school officials changed course and said that they would acknowledge Rachel during the ceremony, her mother, Michelle Rosoff, confirmed to BuzzFeed News. The school will place a vase with a rose and a ribbon on stage in Rachel's honor and the graduation ceremony will include a moment of silence with reference to Rachel by name, according to her mother. The school valedictorian will also be free to decide whether to mention Rachel in his speech. "We appreciate the willingness of Rachel Rosoff's family to resolve the question of Rachel's recognition during a painful and difficult time for all who knew her," Lisa Luten, a spokesperson for Wake County Schools, said in a statement on Monday. "We would also like to thank Enloe Principal Will Chavis for his quiet and persistent efforts to help us reach an agreement."
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Rachel was electrocuted and drowned while working as a lifeguard at the Heritage Point Pool in September.

She would have graduated from the William G. Enloe Magnet High School in June.

For days, family and friends slammed the school for refusing to have a memorial for Rachel during the graduation ceremony.

The school had said that it would not acknowledge Rachel during graduation "based on guidelines recommended by the National Association of School Psychologists."

The school's principal told Rachel's mother that the reason for not having a memorial for her daughter was because the graduation ceremony was meant to be a "celebration" and they wanted to ensure it "maintains a happy, vibrant feel."

On Monday, school officials changed course and said that they would acknowledge Rachel during the ceremony, her mother, Michelle Rosoff, confirmed to BuzzFeed News.

The school will place a vase with a rose and a ribbon on stage in Rachel's honor and the graduation ceremony will include a moment of silence with reference to Rachel by name, according to her mother. The school valedictorian will also be free to decide whether to mention Rachel in his speech.

"We appreciate the willingness of Rachel Rosoff's family to resolve the question of Rachel's recognition during a painful and difficult time for all who knew her," Lisa Luten, a spokesperson for Wake County Schools, said in a statement on Monday. "We would also like to thank Enloe Principal Will Chavis for his quiet and persistent efforts to help us reach an agreement."

A petition to get the school to acknowledge her during graduation got more than 3,000 signatures last week. Her sister, Jordana Rosoff, said she started the petition because the school wanted "to pretend [Rachel] did not exist."

"They feel it may cause sadness and bring people down on a day that is suppose to be celebratory," Jordana wrote on the petition page. "They want to pretend she did not exist, which not only hurts me, but my family and her friends. I just want my sister to be recognized and acknowledged for the beautiful, goofy, funny, care free, caring person she was." "It's ridiculous," Rachel's mother, Michelle Rosoff, told BuzzFeed News on Monday. "[The school] doesn't want the graduation to be focused on a sad event. But we don't want to focus on the way she died, but to focus on her life."
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"They feel it may cause sadness and bring people down on a day that is suppose to be celebratory," Jordana wrote on the petition page. "They want to pretend she did not exist, which not only hurts me, but my family and her friends. I just want my sister to be recognized and acknowledged for the beautiful, goofy, funny, care free, caring person she was."

"It's ridiculous," Rachel's mother, Michelle Rosoff, told BuzzFeed News on Monday. "[The school] doesn't want the graduation to be focused on a sad event. But we don't want to focus on the way she died, but to focus on her life."

In a May 3 email to Michelle Rosoff, the school's principal said they would not have a memorial for her daughter during graduation because the ceremony was meant to be a "celebration" and they wanted to ensure it "maintains a happy, vibrant feel."

In the email that Michelle Rosoff shared on her Facebook page, the principal, Will Chavis, said that "a memorial of a lost/loved one has the potential to cause students (or others) to react in ways that would take trained professionals (i.e. counselors) to support — we cannot ensure that at such an occasion." Michelle Rosoff said the school didn't need therapists on hand in the middle of a graduation. "I'm a therapist, that's what I do for a living. If they need therapists, I'll bring a whole shitload of therapists," she said.In an email to BuzzFeed News, Luten said that the decision not to have a memorial for Rachel during graduation was made by administration officials, counseling staff, and school psychologists.However, some of Rachel's friends want her to be remembered at their graduation ceremony. "I think we are old enough to be okay and understand what is going on," Alissa Brasington, Rachel's friend, told WRAL.com. "I think we'll be OK if they mention her. It will actually be better than if they don't mention her."Her best friend, Victoria Ward, who is graduating in June, told ABC 11, "I think it's more of a sad thing that they can't recognize her. She should be there with us."Luten said that Rachel will also be recognized during Enloe High School's Senior Awards event, where a scholarship will be presented in her name.Students and teachers have also installed a bench on campus in Rachel's honor. Michelle Rosoff told BuzzFeed News that she had started the $500 scholarship in Rachel's name. A link to the scholarship is on the school's website. "They can take my money now that I'm funding them for a scholarship and they can have her name on the website but they don't want to acknowledge her at graduation," she said.
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In the email that Michelle Rosoff shared on her Facebook page, the principal, Will Chavis, said that "a memorial of a lost/loved one has the potential to cause students (or others) to react in ways that would take trained professionals (i.e. counselors) to support — we cannot ensure that at such an occasion."

Michelle Rosoff said the school didn't need therapists on hand in the middle of a graduation. "I'm a therapist, that's what I do for a living. If they need therapists, I'll bring a whole shitload of therapists," she said.

In an email to BuzzFeed News, Luten said that the decision not to have a memorial for Rachel during graduation was made by administration officials, counseling staff, and school psychologists.

However, some of Rachel's friends want her to be remembered at their graduation ceremony.

"I think we are old enough to be okay and understand what is going on," Alissa Brasington, Rachel's friend, told WRAL.com. "I think we'll be OK if they mention her. It will actually be better than if they don't mention her."

Her best friend, Victoria Ward, who is graduating in June, told ABC 11, "I think it's more of a sad thing that they can't recognize her. She should be there with us."

Luten said that Rachel will also be recognized during Enloe High School's Senior Awards event, where a scholarship will be presented in her name.

Students and teachers have also installed a bench on campus in Rachel's honor.

Michelle Rosoff told BuzzFeed News that she had started the $500 scholarship in Rachel's name. A link to the scholarship is on the school's website.

"They can take my money now that I'm funding them for a scholarship and they can have her name on the website but they don't want to acknowledge her at graduation," she said.

"The students and people have spoken and all agree that Rachel be acknowledged," Michelle Rosoff wrote in a Facebook post. "Whose graduation is it anyway?"

According to Michelle Rosoff, the school had held memorials for students on previous graduations.In a comment on the petition page, Melinda Carter, who claimed to be a former English teacher at Enloe, said that there were "several years students who had died were acknowledged at graduation."
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According to Michelle Rosoff, the school had held memorials for students on previous graduations.

In a comment on the petition page, Melinda Carter, who claimed to be a former English teacher at Enloe, said that there were "several years students who had died were acknowledged at graduation."

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