Foster care teen not allowed to graduate

June 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A foster teen in Milpitas has been banned from her own graduation, after a school yard fight pits her word against a teacher's. There are now protests against the district's decision to stop her from walking across the stage to accept her diploma.

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Graduation day is just two days away, but Shontale Taylor's cap and gown likely won't come out of the closet again. The 18-year-old has been banned from the Milpitas High School graduation.

"I was trying to break the fight apart," says Shontale.

However, a teacher said Shontale was a participant. She got a five day suspension and lost the right to walk with her class.

"I was so upset by it because I really just wanted to walk across that stage and hear my name called and be proud of it being called," says Shontale.

For most of her life pride is something Shontale didn't have. She's a foster child and the first to graduate from high school in her family. Her birth mother was going to attend Saturday's ceremony.

"It seemed like a double punishment to me when they said 'We're going to suspend you five days and now you're going to not be able to walk across the stage,'" says Linda Pasters, Shontale's foster mother.

The district refused to comment on Shontale's case but said, "It is clear that her accomplishments, in the face of the numerous obstacles she has overcome, have inspired a great many people."

That includes her fellow classmates. They started a "Support Shontale's Right to Walk at Graduation" campaign on Facebook. On Thursday, students delivered 500 signatures in a petition to the school's principal.

"I think the legal question is really going back to the suspension and whether it was fair and appropriate under the circumstances," says Andrew Cain from Legal Advocates for Children and Youth.

Legal advocates are sure the punishment is unfair. They're pushing the district to reconsider.

If the district does not, Shontel has the option to walk during a smaller graduation ceremony in August.

Shontale's birth mother planned to attend the graduation ceremony from Ohio. She hasn't seen her daughter in two years. She has since cancelled her plans.

Shontale plans to attend San Jose City College in the fall.

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