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Mothers of deceased Kahok students criticize lack of recognition at graduation

By Devese “Dee” Ursery

The monthly school board meeting for Collinsville Community Unit School District 10, kicked off with the public voicing their feelings about the lack of acknowledgement at the graduation ceremony for students that passed away.

Other topics discussed in the board of education meeting were reports from CUSD 10 superintendent, the special education report along with budget committee updates. Board members also took care of normal housekeeping business.

Mothers of two deceased Collinsville High School students took the podium during the public comment portion of the meeting to talk about what they felt was the “unfair and disrespectful” manner in which their sons were treated during this year’s graduation ceremony. Both mothers spoke individually about what they think should be done.

The mother of Horace Grigsby III, said her son, a Kahok football player, was set to graduate this year, but that joy was taken away from her. She said she wants to see a policy change to acknowledge students who have died and will not be able to graduate with their fellow students.

“I don’t know if any of you have kids, but you were awarded the opportunity to see your child get his cap and gown and accept their diploma. I will not get that opportunity,” Grigsby said.

Grigsby said the district could have at least allowed them the opportunity to have their name in the program or have their name acknowledged with a moment of silence.

Anna Smith is the mother of Joseph Smith, another deceased Kahok who would have graduated this year and was not acknowledged at the ceremony. Smith said she was not only there for her son and her family, but also for Jordan Powers, her son’s girlfriend. 

Smith read passages from an emaIl that Powers sent to the  district hoping to get a response from school officials. In the email, Powers told district officials she was saddened thinking about how other schools recognize deceased students.

“He was not mentioned once, not even a moment of silence or anything, not acknowledged at all,” Powers wrote. “I wasn’t even able to represent him myself. We asked for him to have a seat and you guys said that he couldn’t. After thinking that day will never come back for any of us nor for his family that was there watching and didn’t even get to hear their son’s name or see it in the program.”

Powers said that the district did respond and noted that flowers were placed on the stage in memory of the deceased students. A scholarship was also established for Joseph Smith. 

However, Powers contended guests at the graduation would not have known who the flowers were for and the scholarship was established by Smith.

“That is very nice, however, nobody at the ceremony knew that those flowers had any meaning, not a single parent or student,” Powers wrote. “I would like to be the change for the future years to come. A moment of silence, an outprint of the student or remembered page for the student and roster is the least the people in this school district can do.”

Board Of Education President Gary Peccola said that staff and administration would take a deeper look into the situation.

In other news from the meeting, Dr. Brad Skertich, CUSD 10 superintendent in his report discussed updates regarding district facilities. He said the Doris Intermediate School addition  will  be completed at the start of the 2023-2024 school year. Webster Elementary is in its third year of major renovations to their restrooms and work on the Collinsville High School bathrooms, office space, the hallways and ceiling renovations all started this summer.

Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) in terms of communications to improve a building climate culture has been fully initiated in each of school buildings throughout the district in grades K through 12. 

Ali Underwood, special education director for CUSD 10 said in addition to the continuation of school based PBIS implementation, they are expanding their reach of The Kahok Way into the community. They will accomplish this by partnering local businesses to inform them of The Kahok Way of being safe, being respectful and being responsible.

“We will provide our community partners with The Kahok Way signage to display in their business and explain the matrices in our school to reinforce appropriate behavior expectations,” Underwood said. 

Underwood said staff at these businesses would display and use the same common language that students are hearing throughout at school. This will support the generalization of those skills into the community. 

“This collaboration will benefit everyone as we want our students to demonstrate the characteristics of The Kahok Way in our schools and in our community to represent themselves in a positive manner,” Underwood said.



  1. Anonymous on July 21, 2023 at 7:43 pm

    There have been several graduation ceremonies where a student had passed and absolutely nothing was done to memorialize them. I have always thought that was odd and very unusual. Especially, since this is supposed to be a close-knit community. It doesn’t reflect the Kahok-Way.

    • Anonymous on July 23, 2023 at 11:33 pm

      Agree! I attended the Edwardsville H.S. graduation and they mentioned a girls name followed by a moment of silence. I had no idea what happened to her & it’s so tragic when someone that young dies. I read an article about her a couple weeks after, but point is, she was mentioned and there was a moment of silence.

    • Anonymous on July 23, 2023 at 11:44 pm

      Not a spammer a**h***

  2. Anonymous on July 20, 2023 at 10:10 am

    Maybe you should think about giving the flowers to the parents of the students along with their diploma .

  3. Anonymous on July 20, 2023 at 10:06 am

    Maybe you should think about giving those flowers to the parents of those students along with their diploma.

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