Mom appeals to school board for honorary diploma after son’s death

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- An Indianapolis mother who lost her 18-year-old son in February is asking his school district to establish an honorary diploma program.

Sanekah Jackson-Jones is like a lot of moms, she spent more time than she can count pushing her son Jerrold to go to school and get his diploma.

"Me and him have talked about graduation every day since the eighth grade. ...  I just know that’s something he wanted to say, 'Hey mom it’s graduation day, let’s get this done,'" Jackson-Jones said.

She won't get that chance, though.

Jerrold Parker, Jr. was shot and killed in February, the result of an apparent dispute over comments Parker made on Twitter about some other kids' rapping abilities.

Police did make an arrest, providing some closure to Jackson-Jones, but what she really wants is to help her son accomplish the things he is missing out on.

First, she took care of prom, inviting his friends over to take pictures before the big night.

"Everybody came and they showed up and it was really nice. We got pictures, I got prom pictures that I always wanted on my wall," Jackson-Jones said.

The next step was graduation, but Jones quickly learned that her son's district, Pike Township Schools, does not have a policy to honor deceased students at graduation or give out something like an honorary or posthumous diploma.

So, Jackson-Jones showed up at the school board's latest meeting, speaking before the board and appealing to them to create a policy that would help families who lose a student in their senior year.

"What I’m hoping is he will be celebrated as if he were here," Jackson-Jones said.

It's become a cause she is now fighting for, not just in her son's district. Jackson-Jones says she has heard of other districts with policies, or that simply make it a point to invite a deceased students' family to graduation to honor them. She believes it should be something that is practiced more often.

"To me this can happen to anyone and I just want to make sure that if it does, they have (something) in place to say, 'Hey, it’s going to be okay. We've got your kid's diploma, that’s not something you’ve got to worry about,'" Jackson-Jones said.

The school board talked about it and decided to take the issue under advisement, both as a possible future policy and to find ways to honor Parker at his graduation on June 2nd.

Jackson-Jones said she's hoping not only to do this for her son, but for others like him in the future.

"This is the last (thing) that I’m praying and hoping for to get done for him because I know he would smile down. He had the biggest smile in the world and I just would love to see that smile again," Jackson-Jones said.

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