Wake County

Enloe changes mind, will recognize deceased student at graduation, after all

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Michelle and Jordana Rosoff, mother and sister of teen lifeguard Rachel Rosoff, talk about Rachel's death. Rachel died by electrocution in a pool accident in North Raleigh in September.
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Michelle and Jordana Rosoff, mother and sister of teen lifeguard Rachel Rosoff, talk about Rachel's death. Rachel died by electrocution in a pool accident in North Raleigh in September.

Former Enloe High School senior Rachel Rosoff, who died last fall, will be recognized at the school’s graduation ceremony next month after all.

Enloe faced backlash earlier this month after local and national media – including Buzzfeed – reported that the school didn’t plan to mention Rosoff’s name during the ceremony. Rosoff, 17, was electrocuted and drowned Sept. 3, a week into her senior year, while working as a lifeguard at the Heritage Point subdivision pool.

The reversal comes after an online petition to change the school’s mind garnered support from 13,500 people. Enloe’s initial decision received attention from as far away as Denmark, Sweden and Australia, her mother said.

“We are very grateful for their decision and thank Wake County for working with us and recognizing the importance of having our daughter recognized at what would be her graduation,” Rachel’s mother, Michelle Rosoff, said in a text.

School district administrators emailed Rosoff after Enloe Principal William Chavis “changed the mind of the school system,” according to a statement released Monday by schools spokeswoman Lisa Luten.

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Rachel Rosoff, who was electrocuted and drowned in a swimming pool accident in 2016. Chris Seward Courtesy of the Rosoff family

The school plans to place a vase on stage and include a moment of silence during the ceremony “with reference to Rachel by name and with reference to the vase,” according to the email. The school also will include a statement about Rachel in the graduation program and “notify the valedictorian that it is his option whether to make reference to Rachel during his presentation,” the email said.

The news brought a sense of relief to a family that, in addition to dealing with Rosoff’s death, was dealt two more blows within a month of each other.

On April 5, the state Department of Labor announced that it wouldn’t levy penalties on the pool management company despite finding “potential violations.” On May 3, Chavis emailed Michelle Rosoff to say Enloe wouldn’t recognize Rachel because he worried students would react to a memorial in a way that “would take trained professionals (i.e. counselors) to support – we cannot ensure that at such an occasion.”

Rosoff contacted local media about the email, praising Wake’s decision.

“What was going on was ridiculous, but they’re going to make it right, and that’s awesome,” she said in an interview.

The district doesn’t have an official policy on whether to recognize students but usually advises schools not to memorialize students during ceremonies, Luten, the district spokeswoman, has said. District leaders “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,” the school system’s statement said.

The family is suing two electrical contractors, saying their shoddy workmanship led to Rachel’s death.

“We would also like to thank Enloe Principal Will Chavis for his quiet and persistent efforts to help us reach an agreement,” the school system said. “We are not providing additional comment out of respect for the Rosoff family and the healing process among Rachel’s classmates.”

Friends planted a tree and installed a bench on Enloe’s campus in her honor, while Rosoff also started a scholarship fund in her daughter’s name.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht

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