Bismarck mom urges school to honor her son’s memory at graduation ceremony

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A Bismarck mom is challenging Century High School’s decision to exclude her son from their graduation ceremony.

Brandon Thomsen was 16 years old when he passed away from asthma complications. Now, two years later, his family is asking the school to honor his memory at graduation.

Becky Bjerklie says her request to save a seat for her son was denied by school counselors. The issue was brought up at Monday’s school board meeting.

“It felt like they were just forgetting him and pushing him aside. Like he never existed. It’s got to be a more open communication, and there’s got to be some compassion for each individual person and each family,” said Bjerklie, Brandon’s mom.

Bismarck Public Schools did released the following statement:

“The difficult position we face as a district is balancing the wide range of emotions students, staff, and families experience through the grief and loss of a loved one.  A respectful gesture of recognition can bring a blessed feeling of calm for some, and open wounds from  very dark times in the life of others.  Therefore, it is very difficult during a graduation to weave recognitions into a ceremony which generates unbridled emotion. 

With that said, our district typically has graduation on Memorial Day weekend, and it is customary in our ceremonies to have arrangements on the stage for all loved ones who are not able to be with us that day.  We also take time at the beginning of graduations to recognize the deceased through silence.  While we understand this does not maintain the personalization some seek, we feel it strikes an appropriate balance.”

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