PARKLAND, FL — It was both a time of celebration and commemoration on Sunday during the graduation at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which also honored the victims killed in February’s school shooting.
Four of the senior victims were awarded posthumous diplomas, including Fil-Am Carmen Schentrup.
The somber mood was made a bit lighter by the graduation’s surprise speaker, Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon — who shared some jokes while also praising the school’s students for their activism surrounding gun violence.
“You took something horrific and instead of letting it stop you, you started a movement,” Fallon told the students. “Not just here in Florida, not just in America, but throughout the whole world. The whole world has heard your voice, and that was you making a choice.”
Absent from the ceremony was Carmen’s mother, April Schentrup, who tweeted that it was too painful to celebrate without her daughter.
In recent weeks, Ms. Schentrup, a principal at an elementary school within the same district as MSD High School criticized the school district for lacking empathy and transparency in the wake of the tragedy.
“Since February 14, I have waited for our school leaders to do what they promised. To prioritize the well being of students staff and families, and lead the quest to understand conditions that led up to the tragedy with both transparency and a sense of urgency. I stand here today to say that I have waited enough. ”
According to Mrs. Schentrup, the district tried to dock her pay for time that she took to grieve the loss of her daughter — and that, for a while, the only correspondence she received from the school board was an email blast saying the shooting would be lumped as one tragedy for insurance purposes.
The Schentrups also said that on the day of the shooting, the district violated security protocol by opening school gates 20 minutes before dismissal without anyone monitoring them.
“Where is the transparency of information and urgency for safety? If the loss of 17 wonderful promising students and truly dedicated teachers doesn’t move you to lead, then what will?”
Broward County school district officials have since met with and remain in communication with the Schentrup family, who have since become vocal activists against gun violence — as MSD students share plans of coast-to-coast bus tours this summer to promote gun control reform while encouraging young people to vote.