RPS H.S. Graduation in Church

By: Tina Stein
By: Tina Stein

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Icehogs emblems and local advertising typically line the walls of Rockford Schools' graduations. But for Auburn's commencement ceremony this year, there will the crucifix.

"You're going to cater to everybody, then you need to think about everybody's religious beliefs, not just one persons," says Auburn H.S. parent Renee Russell.

On June first, Auburn grads will get their diplomas inside Rockford First, a church on the city's east side.

"I could have graduated early but I chose to stay here my fourth year so I could walk across the stage not a platform. I wanted to graduate in the Metrocentre where my whole family could be there," says Auburn H.S. Taila Wolfe.

Church spokespeople say they're not charging District 205 and there are no plans to cover christian symbols.

"Public schools should not hold ceremonies in houses of worship because doing so tends to endorse religion generally and the chosen church in particular," says A.C.L.U. Spokesperson Ed Yohnka.

Hosting graduation at the Metrocentre costs about five-thousand dollars per school.

In an October email obtained by 23 News, RPS Communications Officer Mark Bonne told arena staff they're forgoing a contract to save money.

"You're going to have people who are not willing to go there. So then their children are not going to go through the entire graduation ceremony. Something they worked for four years to do and then they're going to be cut out of it because it's in a church, that's not fair to everybody," says Russell.

Metrocentre spokespeople say they are willing to negotiate to keep 205's business. But haven't heard anything more beyond the email.

Numerous messages left for Mark Bonne were not returned. This issue has come up several times across the country. Most recently in Connecticut a judge ruled having graduation in a church violates the constitution.

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