CAIRO, Neb. (AP) — A central Nebraska school district has told the parents of two students killed in a traffic accident that they can’t buy space in the school yearbook to honor their children, saying the district must be careful about the adolescent grieving process.
The Centura Junior/Senior High School students, 16-year-old Bailey Jean Packer and 17-year-old Navi Nielsen, died last month after a one-car crash in rural Howard County.
The parents and friends think school officials are being inflexible and insensitive.
“Every child’s life matters,” Staci Nielsen told station NTV. “If that’s something that meant something to them or that family wants to put a tribute in their last yearbook, I don’t see how that could be a negative thing for anyone”
Tara Schenk, whose family raised Bailey Packer since fourth grade, told the Omaha World-Herald they were also upset the district immediately removed from the school photographs and drawings done by Bailey.
“The kids think they’re trying to erase Bailey,” Schenk said.
But district officials said they’re following policy and a consultant’s training on student grieving. Centura Superintendent Julie Otero said the consultant recommends that districts immediately remove photographs and clean out lockers of deceased students because adolescents need finality when grieving.
The district allows graduating seniors to purchase space in the back of the yearbook for tributes, said school principal Tammy Holcomb. But Navi and Bailey were both juniors, so tributes or ads specifically for them were not permitted.
The two appear in photos of their sports teams and other activities. Holcomb said the families will be allowed to place tributes in next year’s yearbook, along with those of other seniors in what would have been the girls’ graduating class.