Kansas mother speaks out against policy opposed to honoring deceased students

ERIE, Kan.–Raiden Colborn was born with a rare nervous disorder called Ataxia, and in January, lost his battle with the disease.

This would’ve been the year he graduated, something his mother Kerri Colborn says he always wanted to do.

“All he ever wanted to do was graduate, and he’s not here to do so,” Colborn said.

She says she found out that it was against school policy to honor deceased students like her son at graduation, and was shocked.

“It’s like saying to me, your son did not exist, and that’s hard to swallow.”

Erie School District’s superintendent Troy Damman says the district follows policy from the Kansas Association of School Boards, which recommends not recognizing deceased students at graduation.

“The policy is not geared towards anyone in particular, and so it’s for everyone. It’s to protect people that have lost somebody and who don’t necessarily want to be reminded of that loss. Or pulling it out in a time of celebration. Graduation’s purpose is to celebrate positive things and good things. It’s not to have remembrance of tragedy or accidents, things of that nature.”

Classmates of Raiden say they disagree with the policy, and they’d like to see this policy change.

“It’s not fair, it’s not right to Raiden and his family,” said Ryleigh Brant, one of Raiden’s friends. “You know, the one thing that Raiden wanted to do was graduate, and everyone that knew him knew that. And I just think that it’s disrespectful in a way to not allow his wishes to be carried out.”

Sarah Stark, another of Raiden’s friends said he was as much of a part of the class of 2022 as anyone else.

“I just feel like if it’s something that we want to do and if we want to recognize him, then, like, we should be allowed to because it is our graduation.”

Raiden’s mother said she’d like to see more done at the local level to stop this from happening any further.

“The local board needs to take a stand. They need to take a stand, and they need to really focus on trying to build good character in the school if that is what they’re trying to tell me. This policy is supposed to do that.”

But Damman said the school isn’t targeting a specific person with the policy.

“It also isn’t earmarked for a specific person. It’s just a policy for everyone.”

Erie High School’s graduation will take place this Saturday.