A misunderstanding between two parties and a viral Facebook post has led to a positive discussion for change in the La Monte R-IV School District.
On Friday, Andrea Parkey was led to believe her son, Westyn Parkey, would not be allowed to walk in the sixth grade graduation ceremony at La Monte Elementary because he had not been in attendance at school that day.
“I kept Westyn home from school Friday because they were taking a field trip and there have been times when he couldn’t attend the field trips,” Parkey said. “There was actually miscommunication about when the field trip was and we all agree on that.”
Parkey was backstage during the graduation filming the ceremony, repeatedly asking sixth grade teacher Shelby Schuber why her son, who is autistic, was being denied the right to participate.
After the graduation, which Westyn was allowed to participate in, ended, Parkey posted the video to her Facebook page Friday night with the status, “She tried denying my autistic son from attending graduation!”
The post has since received more than 715,000 views on Facebook and was shared more than 13,000 times, leading to what Parkey and La Monte Superintendent David Leone have both called a positive discussion of a board policy that created the dispute.
“I really didn’t expect the post to go viral as quickly as it did,” Parkey said by phone Monday morning. “But out of something that was negative I feel we have brought about some very positive changes.
“I had some amazing conversations this morning with the school administrators and Westyn’s teacher and I think that we were able to help make this situation and policy better so no one will have to go through what Westyn did.”
The policy Parkey is referring to is part of the La Monte Board of Education attendance policy.
Adopted in 1984 and revised in July 2015, attendance policy 12 reads:
“In order to participate in a scheduled extracurricular activity, students must be in attendance the full day of the event or have administrative approval prior to the absence. Administrators must be notified by the parent/guardian before 8 a.m. to pre-approve any absence. This includes students who miss 10 minutes or more after the start of the school day.”
“Our policy is very straight forward,” Leone said. “Since Westyn wasn’t in school on Friday his teacher was simply following board policy.
“The teacher, Mrs. Schuber, is a first-year teacher who is a wonderful, wonderful, exemplary young teacher and I feel for her because she was doing her job by following the board policy,” Leone added. “Ultimately, she made the right decision to allow Westyn to participate but she is not at fault in this situation in any way.”
After meeting with Schuber and school administration, Parkey posted the following message to her Facebook page Monday afternoon, agreeing with Leone in regards to Schuber.
“I understand that Mrs. Schuber is getting a lot of attention for following this policy but we need to forgive her because in the end, she broke this policy to do the right thing and that is what really matters,” Parkey wrote. “After speaking with her today I feel that in her heart she is sorry.
“It is evident to me that she has been punished enough,” she continued. “I want to see Mrs. Schuber excel as a teacher; we are all human and make mistakes but I want everyone to know these negative events have brought about positive change not just for my son but for my community.”
The changes Parkey mentions include a possible revision by the school board to the attendance policy.
“After our discussion I told Mrs. Parkey that I will have the board look at and review this policy,” Leone said. “This is a policy that I believe really applies more to the guidelines that MSHAA (Missouri State High School Activities Association) has in place in regards to high school athletics participation.
“All of the students in the sixth grade did participate in the graduation and received their certificates,” Leone added.
In her most recent Facebook post, Parkey said she plans to stay focused on the policy changes that she hopes will come at the La Monte Board of Education meeting in June.
“I think the policy is ancient,” Parkey told the Democrat. “I don’t think it meets the needs of society and I think after our discussions (Monday) morning we will be able to come up with changes to help not only Westyn but all children and that is what is wonderful.
“No child should not be allowed to attend their graduation,” she added. “I took a big chance and stood up for my child and for others and that is an amazing feeling.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484