No graduation for Red Lion senior causes viral campaign

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RED LION, Pa. -- A Twitter campaign started in response to Red Lion Area High School's decision not to allow a senior to walk with classmates at graduation, has gone viral. However, it does not appear likely the school will reverse its decision.

Gregg Thibault, a senior at Red Lion in York County, finished 1.6 credits shy of the school's graduation requirements. According to the district's policy, "Any member of the senior class who does not successfully complete all requirements for graduation will not be permitted to participate in the Baccalaureate and commencement exercises."

"I understand there are policies they have to abide by. I didn’t earn a credit by their standards. But I do believe I should be able to walk at graduation," Thibault said.

Thibault missed nearly 50 days of class this school year. In August, he passed out following a football team training camp practice. When he regained consciousness, he was in a hospital's Intensive Care Unit. Gregg Thibault had suffered a heat stroke. About a week later, he says, he was diagnosed with epilepsy. Gregg's mother, Yvette, says he suffers seizures often. His medical condition, along with new classes designed to focus on his desired college major of nursing, caused Gregg to fall behind and never catch up.

"I understand policy," Yvette said, "but with every situation it's not always black and white."

Despite being an honors student and a member of the school's football and track & field teams, Gregg received word from his guidance counselor on Thursday, May 28th, that he would not be allowed to participate in the following week's commencement ceremony. "My heart just sank," Yvette said. By Friday, Gregg's closest friends decided they had to do something about it.

At the school's graduation practice Friday morning, senior Bradley Irizarry said he asked a teacher for permission to speak on stage. "She had no idea what was about to happen. I had no idea what I was about to say," he said.

What he said was a plea to the school: "Let Gregg Walk." A video of the speech was taken by Red Lion senior Rachel Bosley and posted on Twitter. 

Irizarry was asked to leave the stage, but not before the auditorium broke into a chant of "Let Gregg Walk!"

"Within a few minutes (the hashtag #LetGreggWalk2k15) spread throughout the auditorium of about 300 some seniors," he said.

By the weekend, the hashtag had made its way across the Red Lion community, branching into neighboring schools and counties.

"It’s unreal," Thibault said, "I honestly cannot believe how many people this has reached."

It remains unlikely the school will change its stance. Red Lion High School declined to talk specifically about Gregg Thibault when asked by Fox43 Sunday evening. Yvette Thibault continues to plead with the school, hoping officials change their minds.

"I feel bad for my son because he’s always been a great student," Yvette said, breaking into tears. "I think Red Lion needs to say, 'Maybe we made a mistake. Maybe we were hasty. We’ll let Gregg walk on Wednesday.'"

Gregg tells Fox43 he hopes to complete his final 1.6 credits in the coming weeks. He is scheduled to attend West Virginia University on a $24,000 academic scholarship this fall and major in nursing.

 

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