A 12-year-old boy has been kicked out of school for fulfilling his dying grandfather’s last wish — to spend his final days with his grandson. Josh Palfrey was expelled from Barr Beacon School in Walsall, U.K., after his father pulled him out to make the lengthy trip to Alaska to visit his dying grandfather. They were unsure of how much time he had left and wanted above all else to honor his wishes.
The school warned Palfrey’s father that if he missed more than 20 days of school, he would be expelled, but they made the trip anyway, uncertain of when they would return. Over the course of six weeks, Palfrey sat by his grandfather’s side, hearing his stories and sharing precious last moments with him. It was a time his father described as “magical.”
When Palfrey’s grandfather passed away with his son and grandson by his side, there was no doubt that they had made the right decision by honoring his wishes. However, when they returned to England, the school remained firm in its decision as well, saying its warning had been clear and that it couldn’t dole out special treatment for every family wedding or funeral. There were simply too many parents and students on the waitlist for its outstanding school to hold Palfrey’s spot.
While the school is most certainly within its rights in holding Palfrey to very clear guidelines, at what point is a circumstance considered special enough to give special treatment? This was not an extended family vacation or a joyous event like a family wedding. This was a trip to see a dying family member, where there was no discernible timeline. His grandfather could have died in a few days, for all they knew, so what point does the school’s guidelines serve in a situation such as this?
There is nothing outstanding about a school that values such stringent rules above the emotional well-being of its students. Attendance is important, yes, but when a family member is dying, a little compassion is more important than going by the book for school rules. No kid should have to decide between visiting their dying grandfather and their education. Making an exception for a grieving student would be far more indicative of a great school environment than sticking to a set of arbitrary rules.
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