KY judge orders schools to allow parents at graduation. Seniors filed lawsuit

A Kentucky judge ruled in favor of several high school seniors and their parents who filed a coronavirus-related lawsuit after parents were excluded from graduation ceremonies planned for Wednesday, according to a media report.

The Sentinel-Echo in London reported that Laurel Circuit Judge Michael Caperton on Tuesday night ordered the Laurel County school district to revise its plan to film students accepting their diplomas without parents present, and to allow two parents or parent figures to attend. The ceremonies at North Laurel High School on Wednesday and South Laurel High School on Thursday were postponed, according to the school district website.

The ruling was not in online court records early Wednesday.

To curb the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Andy Beshear has said that in-person graduation ceremonies aren’t possible at this point. Schools should opt for drive-in or virtual ceremonies, he has said. In-person classes in Kentucky ended in mid-March and won’t resume this school year.

The Laurel County Schools’ ceremonies were scheduled at the high schools with only ten students in the same area at one time, according to a letter to families from the principals.

Graduating seniors were to have been given masks and practice social distancing. Parents were not allowed, but would be given a video later in the month, the letters included in court records said.

About 40 students and their parents had asked for an injunction to prevent the ceremonies, saying they violated their constitutional rights, according to court records.

The lawsuit filed Monday said that “unnecessarily prohibiting parents from attending is cruel and arbitrary.”

School district representatives said at a Tuesday hearing that the goal was to keep students safe and the events had been approved by local public health officials, the Sentinel-Echo reported.

When the day-long virtual hearing ended at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Caperton ordered the school board to change the plans, the Sentinel Echo reported.

Another hearing was scheduled for Wednesday to work on a new plan for the commencement ceremonies, the newspaper said.

The principals’ letters said other events involving parents, such as a car parade, were planned for the Class of 2020.

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