Rachel Rosoff would have walked across the stage with fellow Enloe High School students at graduation in June, but now school officials say Enloe won’t even acknowledge her.
Rosoff was electrocuted and drowned Sept. 3, a week into her senior year, while working as a lifeguard at the Heritage Point subdivision pool. An online petition, launched by Rosoff’s sister, Jordana, an Enloe sophomore, has gotten roughly 1,800 signatures asking school officials to acknowledge the 17-year-old at graduation.
Wake County Public Schools doesn’t have an official policy on whether to recognize students, but it advises schools not to memorialize students during ceremonies, said schools spokeswoman Lisa Luten. Enloe has no plans to acknowledge Rosoff at graduation.
Enloe Principal William Chavis sent Rosoff’s mother, Michelle Rosoff, an email Wednesday thanking her for advocating on behalf of her daughter, but explaining why Enloe would not acknowledge Rachel.
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“A memorial of a lost/loved one has 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. Consequently we will not have a memorial at a graduation ceremony,” Chavis said in the email.
Rosoff said she was hurt by the response. She said she feels that not acknowledging her daughter makes it seem as if Rachel didn’t exist.
“I know that Wake County has honored other kids, and it’s not a policy, it’s a choice,” Rosoff said.
Luten said the only other case she knows of was a few years ago when a student died within weeks of graduation. A moment of silence was held for students who were not with their classmates at the ceremony, she said.
On Enloe’s campus, a tree has been planted and a bench has been installed in Rachel’s honor. Rosoff also started a scholarship fund in her daughter’s name, and a link can be found on the school’s website.
“It’s amazing that they can have her on their website for a scholarship, but they won’t acknowledge her at graduation,” Rosoff said.
The family has filed a lawsuit against two electrical contractors, claiming that shoddy workmanship led to the girl’s death. The lawsuit is still pending.
On the petition’s webpage, people have left comments in support of acknowledging Rosoff.
“As a former English teacher at Enloe, there were several years students who had died were acknowledged at graduation,” said commenter Melinda Carter of Raleigh. “This administration should do the same.”
Mary Johnson, also of Raleigh, wrote, “Graduation is a day to remember time during high school and lessons they learned. Some of these lessons, such as the loss of a friend, are difficult but just as important to recognize.”