Student with cancer not allowed to 'walk' at graduation

Student with cancer not allowed to 'walk' at graduation

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by Stephanie Zepelin

Bio | Email | Follow: @ktvbstephanie

KTVB.COM

Posted on May 23, 2012 at 10:26 PM

Updated Sunday, Nov 24 at 7:53 PM

Poll:
Do you believe Haylee Winters should be allowed to walk at Timberline's graduation with her classmates?

UPDATE: Haylee will be allowed to walk at the graduation ceremony. Click here for more updates.

BOISE - Haylee Winters is a senior at Timberline High School in Boise. She recently finished a year of intense chemotherapy for a cancerous brain tumor. She's just four elective credits shy of graduating. The Boise School District says it's against their policy to let anyone who is short of the required credits to walk in the ceremony.

Haylee plans to finish those last credits over the summer and get her diploma this fall. All she wants, is to go to the graduation ceremony and walk across the stage with her peers. The school district doesn't want to make an exception.

Haylee Winters was 14 years old when she got the bad news.

"She has an optical glaucoma and it was so big that it killed some of the optical nerve and caused some blindness in her left eye," said Jackee Winter, Haylee's mom.

Haylee had an inoperable, plum-sized tumor in her brain. She chose to treat it with chemotherapy.

"She happens to be a small percentage of people that get deathly ill and needed to be hospitalized for about a week every month for a year," said Jackee.

The chemo shrunk the tumor but also made classwork hard for Haylee.

"She's got the condition that they call chemo brain," said Jackee.

The American Cancer Society says chemo brain effects people ability to remember things, stay organized, and keep focused--things that are critical for a high schooler.

Jackee says Haylee worked hard to pass her classes, but she is still four credit hours shy of Timberline's graduation requirements. All she wants to do is walk in the ceremony, but the Boise School District says that's not an option.

"We notified the family back on February first, to be exact, of a plan that they could put into place to make sure that she was able to graduate on time," said Dan Hollar, spokesperson for the Boise School District.

He says they worked with administration at Timberline to create a reasonable plan for Haylee to graduate.

"We've got 25,000 students in the district, the majority of whom meet the requirements and are able to participate in commencement exercises. She was told early in the year what the steps are that need to be taken," Hollar said.

Hollar says most students who walk without finishing their coursework never end up completing it.
He says the district doesn't want to set a new standard for other students.

"There's a precedent there too. I mean, can you understand our concern about if we open the door this way, what happens in the future?," asked Hollar.

"This will change her life if she's not able to walk with her class," said her mom.

Jackee says Haylee wasn't feeling well enough to talk with us. She wrote us a letter: "The staff has seen all the tears and hard work that I have put into my schooling but obviously not to them it has not been enough for them to allow me to participate in the graduation ceremony with my peers."

Graduation is May 30.

"She just wants to be a part of whats going on and be included. She's worked really hard to get where she's at, and they oughta recognize that this child deserves this," Jackee said.

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