Parents concerned about graduation after news of First Lady’s visit

There’s some controversy surrounding the First Lady’s upcoming trip to Topeka. Michelle Obama will address some 800 Topeka seniors at their commencement ceremony, which falls on the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education to the day.

“It’s something we need to keep out in front of our students and by having the first lady here to deliver that message, it will be very memorable to our students and to our staff and families,” says Superintendent Julie Ford.

USD 501 typically holds separate ceremonies for its three high schools, alternative school and charter school. This year they plan to combine them into one.

“We would not want to eliminate one high school or not allow a student to have this opportunity,” Ford says.

But that isn’t sitting well with some parents, including Regina McCarthy – who fears tickets will be limited.

“That’s putting me in a position where I have to decide which one of my parents gets to go and I don’t think that’s fair to my parents, they’ve been very supportive in my daughter’s life,” McCarthy says, “And to make them not both be able to go is not really too fair.”

The district isn’t confirming yet how many tickets each student will get for family and friends.

“We’re asking them to be patient and we are going to be empathetic to families on the situation,” Ford says, “But sometimes you have to look beyond that and see the big picture and really it’s about the total event, the total celebration.”

“Families should be there, that’s special,” McCarthy says, “Especially the people that have supported you through all your school years and you know I think this doesn’t make it special.”

USD 501 plans to live stream the event online. The graduation is scheduled for May 17 at the Kansas Expocentre.


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some parents in the Topeka are asking the school district to reconsider plans to have first lady Michelle Obama speak at a graduation ceremony.

The school district announced Thursday that the first lady would speak at a ceremony May 17, the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision that made school segregation unconstitutional.

The speech would require the district to combine graduation ceremonies of all its high schools and limit the number of people who could attend.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports ( ) several parents criticized the plan Thursday evening at a school board meeting. Most objected to having to reduce the number of relatives who could see their children graduate. Others said graduation should focus on students and not become a political event.


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal,

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