OPELOUSAS, La. (KLFY) – A concerned Opelousas parent is speaking out after discovering their son can not participate in graduation festivities or walk across the stage.
Every student’s dream is to walk across the graduation stage to receive their diploma. Still, for one student Javin Thompson, 18, at Magnet Academy for Cultural Arts, that dream may not become a reality. “Push this child aside and say 14 years doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It’s ridiculous,” said Jodie Thompson, father of Javin Thompson.
Thompson says he was devastated to hear the news regarding his son. He explains the school said Javin had skipped class and a graduation practice walk meeting, causing him to be canceled out of walking with his class for graduation and attending the senior banquet. “He didn’t skip the day. He was with his gifted teacher, where he goes every Tuesday, and he’s been doing that for several years,” said Thompson.
The class is for Javin’s mental health. Javin said he feels like the school discriminates against him because of it. “It’s very upsetting. I’m being singled out because of my mental illness,” said Javin Thompson. He explains that the senior package information does not say the meeting was mandatory.
“I’m a concerned parent. I’m also an educator here in this system, but I’m a parent first, and that is my child. He’s a part of this system, and I hope that the district will start taking mental illness seriously,” said Thompson.
The father said the family sent emails and went to the school board about the matter and is getting nowhere. “We went through the channels trying to communicate who we need to. To find out if we can get any kind of help or if anybody can listen,” said Thompson. “It’s like we are getting nowhere, and time is running out because next week is the 18th for the banquet and the walk is on the 20th, and here we are Friday, and we got the weekend and all of our friends and family. They are assuming that they’re going to see him walk, and at this point, nobody can watch him walk. He can’t even walk.”
Thompson said when he tried to explain to the school principal about his son’s mental illness, she said, “Rules are rules, and she’s not making an exception because if she makes an exception for him, she has to make an exception; for everybody,” he explained.
Javin’s graduation walk means a lot to the family. “He’s walking for our family, and I say that with pride because I didn’t finish high school. Nobody on my family’s side has ever done the walk and graduated, and he would be the first one,” said his father. “It would devastate me. I know it would mentally impact him because it’s his work, but he should be able to take that walk with pride, knowing that I did 14 years, and this is my last walk before I go ahead off to college.”
For Javin, the walk is symbolic of the finish of his four years in education.