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Nipmuc Graduation Policy to be Reviewed

At the June 18 School Committee Meeting, Northbridge resident and Mendon Upton Regional School District parent Jim Mulgrew, voiced his concerns with what he called a "too restrictive and inflexible policy," which kept his daughter from walking with her classmates at graduation.

Mulgrew's daughter Arielle, a Nipmuc High School senior this past year, was diagnosed this Fall with "post-concussion syndrome" due to prior head injuries, which caused her to have headaches and short-term memory loss. Her doctors prescribed rest, a leave from school, and no television, music, or any physical activity. Mulgrew said that her daughter "took the news hard," but followed the doctors' orders and was able to start online courses a few months later "in an attempt to keep up." Arielle returned to school in the third term of Senior year, but on a college trip in March, reinjured her head by hitting it on a towel bar in the hotel, and quickly developed the same symptoms as before, forcing her to take another leave from school. Mulgrew said that his daughter "ran out of time" and could not finish her classes before graduation.

Mulgrew read from a prepared statement which he began by stating that he had "no issues with the Superintendent, (Nipmuc Principal) John Clements, the Administrators or teachers at Nipmuc." He specifically called out Clements who he said has been "very supportive of Ariel over the past 18 months."

After describing the background information, Mulgrew continued, his voice choked with emotion, "Why am I here before you tonight? My daughter, who has worked hard, pushing herself, was told by the administration that because of school policy, she would not be able to have her picture taken with her classmates for the yearbook, or be allowed to walk at graduation," said Mulgrew.

"I never expected the school to hand her a diploma that she had yet earned, all I asked was to allow her to be with her classmates that she spent the last 4 years with; to be with the group, call her name, and hand her a blank folder (instead of a diploma). Why is this too much to ask?" he said. "School policy is black and white. This is neither; she is a person."

Mulgrew told the Committee that although he knows nothing can be done to change the past, he asked them to consider making changes to the policy to allow some "flexibility for the administrators to make decisions on a case by case basis." "I feel that this was a very unfair thing to do. Don't let this happen to another child," he said.

After Mulgrew's presentation, his daughter addressed the Committee as well. Arielle admits that she was a half credit away from graduating, but that school policy did not allow her to be in the class photo "because it would symbolize I was graduating, even though I wasn't," she said. "I want students with medical issues to walk with their class because they deserve it," said Arielle. Arielle informed the Committee that she hoped to inspire even just one person with her story in order to bring about change. School Committee Member Chris Russo said after her presentation "I think you have inspired everyone on the school board, not just one person."

School Committee Chairperson Kathleen Drennan informed the Mulgrew's that she was aware of their situation and that "this is something that the School Committee needs to do more investigation," she said. "We will be revisiting this and hope that we can prevent this from happening to another student in the future."

In a follow-up interview with Drennan, she stated that they plan to revisit the district graduation requirement that stipulates that students must complete all of their course work by a certain date in order to participate in graduation activities. "Mr. Clements and Dr. Maruszczak will be working closely with the faculty at the high school to review the graduation policy to make sure that students are given every chance to graduate with their class," she said.


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