Stephen Dwyer: AZ Student With Leukemia Not Allowed to Graduate
Stephen Dwyer: AZ Student With Leukemia Not Allowed to Graduate

Stephen Dwyer: ‘AZ Student’ With Leukemia Not Allowed to Graduate

Stephen Dwyer’s family was devastated when he was diagnosed with leukemia during his junior year at Dobson High School.

Stephen Dwyer is a senior at Dobson High in Mesa who withdrew from classes his junior year to receive a lifesaving bone-marrow transplant to treat leukemia, according to a post he penned on Facebook Wednesday night that has been shared more than 1,000 times.

He is so admired at school that he was elected the student body president, and upon returning for classes his senior year he worked to catch up on credits and now is only 2.5 credits short of meeting the requirements to graduate from Dobson. He expects to graduate in December.

“I never asked to receive a diploma and am even OK with not walking across that stage or having my name called,” he wrote. “I just want to be a part of the ceremony as one of my peers would be. I want to sit on the field in cap and gown, walk in the same line and throw my cap in the air as we all celebrate what we have accomplished.”

Instead, the school and the Mesa Public Schools district officials said Dwyer may not wear his cap and gown. They will let him lead the Class of 2016 out at the beginning of the ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, then leave and watch graduation from the stands.

Mesa Public Schools spokeswoman Helen Hollands released comments from the district about the matter Thursday afternoon.

“Stephen Dwyer is a strong, courageous young man. Dobson High School and Mesa Public Schools have worked with the Dwyer family throughout Stephen’s high school career to provide an educational environment that is safe and supportive.

“Each year, the district has a number of students who due to their personal hardships have not earned the minimum number of credits required to graduate. They are informed about their credits and graduation status throughout their senior year. These students do not participate in a graduation ceremony before successfully earning a diploma.

“All of them, including Stephen, may participate in other senior year activities and traditions such as prom and senior award ceremonies. As student body president, Stephen will be leading the students onto the field. He chose not to accept several other opportunities offered him to participate in the graduation ceremony in his role as a student leader.”

According to Dwyer’s post, that’s not enough.

He spent his senior year on the varsity swim team, as a member of National Honor Society, and earning a 4.2 GPA his first semester back. He added an “A-hour” class before first period to help catch up, he wrote.

“I’m very proud of the way I was able to return back to this environment and do the things I was able to do. I don’t think people realize how hard it is to assimilate back into the high school environment after being in isolation for as long as I was,” he wrote.

“The reason I am writing about all of this is not because I want people to feel bad for me or out of spite for my high school. I write this because I believe what is happening to me (being excluded from the graduation ceremony) and other students like me is wrong.

“Students like me who had to suffer due to no faults of their own are lumped in the same category as those who failed classes or got suspended for doing something stupid. It makes us feel like we are being punished for something we had absolutely no control over whatsoever.

“I understand the concern of setting a certain precedent for kids who failed to meet the graduation requirements, but I believe people like me have a special circumstance and don’t deserve to feel like they are being punished. It is hard for me to understand why some people do not look forward to doing such great things for students in these situations because if they were to have let me be with my peers, it would truly “make” this school year for me. I could really use that.

“I lost a lot of high school memories already and now I’m losing the final one.”

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    One comment

    1. Why have requirements if at the end of the day the decision will be based on someone’s opinion of whose situation is worthy and whose is not, or how sad the story is? Why not just let that decision entity decide who can or can’t graduate, period. Many have fought and died for equality, fairness, and objectively. Would such an arrangement facilitate impartiality? Or would it guarantee favoritism/prejudice/partiality/discrimination/bias?

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