A campaign to put a deceased Roseburg High School student on the homecoming court was stopped by an administrator who said he was worried the bid would upset some students and set a precedent for future homecoming courts.
Bailey Whiting, who was a 17-year-old junior, collapsed and died while on a run with her mother in June.
Whiting’s name was among 15 on a ballot for Friday’s homecoming court that was being circulated this week until Assistant Principal Larry Rich removed it Tuesday.
Rich said Wednesday he didn’t realize another teacher had approved letting Whiting’s name appear on the ballot.
“We were wondering if this was a joke, so we went ahead and pulled it from the ballot,” Rich said.
Roseburg High senior Breanna Larson, who was a close friend of Whiting’s, tweeted Oct. 3 that she wanted to nominate Whiting for homecoming court.
“I thought it would be a cool award and honor,” said Larson, 18. “It’s what everyone wanted. We want her to be a part of senior year.”
The tweet led to a group of students, including members of the leadership class that plans homecoming, to approach the leadership adviser about adding Whiting to the preliminary online ballot.
Whiting was among the top 15 vote-getters, and her name was printed on the paper ballot.
Larson said she saw Whitings’s name on the ballot Tuesday morning on a teacher’s desk. By fourth period, however, Whiting was no longer a candidate when ballots were distributed to students.
Rich said a concerned teacher approached him 25 minutes before voting.
Rich said he tried to contact the leadership adviser to find out why Whiting’s name was on the ballot but wasn’t able to reach her before voting.
The school reprinted and distributed the new ballots without Whiting’s name.
Rich said he later learned that the leadership adviser had approved Whiting’s name on the ballot, however, the administration was not aware and had not approved it.
Larson’s mother, Rachael Larson, talked to Rich about his decision and said she doesn’t agree with it.
“The kids were pretty upset,” Rachael Larson said. “Who knew (the leadership adviser) hadn’t talked to the administration about it?”
“I don’t like the way the administration handled it,” she said. “This was not about making her queen. It was about the students wanting to honor her.”
Breanna Larson said Whiting would have been a popular choice to make the homecoming court.
“To put her on the ballot and then rip her off is unfair,” Breanna Larson said.
Senior Makiah Jones, who is in the leadership class, said that so many students wrote in Whiting’s name anyway that she will be recognized as an honorary princess.
“We just want the school to be more involved. We are trying to cope. We are trying to make it as normal as we can,” Jones said. “We want to see the good in it.”
Rich said that he suggested the leadership adviser or students talk with the administration about alternative ways to honor Bailey during homecoming.
“The message is the kids felt like they did everything right,” Rich said.
For homecoming, Roseburg High’s football team will host Grants Pass High at 7 p.m. Friday at Finlay Field.
• Reporter Jessica Prokop can be reached at 541-957-4209 and firstname.lastname@example.org.