Michigan school’s ban on clothing honoring deceased student sparks nationwide outrage
Dozens of students arrived at Lakeview Middle School in Battle Creek, Michigan on Monday wearing blue and orange T-shirts to commemorate sixth-grader Caitlyn Jackson who passed away from leukemia on Saturday. The 12-year-old, who spent years fighting cancer, was supported throughout the community at the end of her life and many of Monday’s shirts were purchased at prior fundraisers.
Caitlyn’s favorite color was blue, and orange is the color most often designated to honor those with leukemia. So the confusion was palpable this week when school administrators asked students to turn their shirts inside out or place tape over her name, so as to not further upset the student body. Parents were not informed of the school’s decision.
“That hurt me to the point where I didn’t think I could be hurt anymore,” Caitlyn’s mother, Melinda Jackson, told the Battle Creek Enquirer.
“It was as though they took my heart and not only just broke it more but they took off a piece of it, wadded it up threw it on the floor and stomped on it.”
Acting district chief Amy Jones said that school officials made their decision on Sunday night. She stated that the decision was correct, based on the district’s “crisis management plan.” The plan prohibits “permanent memorials” to a sad event based on the idea that such reminders worsen students’ grief.
“The intent was designed to protect the interests of the students,” she said, adding that the idea is “based on a lot of research and expert opinion.”
She went on to explain how students were permitted to make consolation cards for the family because the children could do so “in private and by choice,” whereas students wearing the shirts did not provide that option.
“Certainly the intent of our decision was good,” Jones said. “Probably the ramifications of our decision caused more disruption than if we had let kids wear the shirts in the first place.”
The school allowed the clothing to be worn on Tuesday after Melinda Jackson, other parents, and schoolchildren put pressure on administrators.
But Jaidyn Bellinger, 11, said she was given detention Monday for trying to support her deceased friend.
“It made me feel really bad that I couldn’t express myself for Caitlyn,” she said. “I wanted to let people know how bad it feels to lose someone like that.”