Justice for Chris Kelly
Justice for Chris Kelly
The decision made today by Union High School is honestly a disgraceful representation of the community of Big Stone Gap, Virginia; Today I stand ashamed of this decision as an Alumni of the first graduating class of Union High School and as Chris’s sister.
Today we were informed by the new administration of Union High School that Chris Kelly will no longer be allowed to participate in school events at Union High School; nor will be allowed to assist with sports functions. This was only due to “changes being made within the school”. As many of you know many events have taken place over the past few years where Chris was targeted and bullied by students, of which were forgiven and put to the side because of our belief in forgiveness and that kids learn lessons from mistakes. But today, I am disheartened to know that due to administration failing to run a school properly that the victim is now punished as we never pushed any type of punishment towards those who wronged Chris.
At one time, half of the football team took turns coming to our home, vandalizing our property, harassing Chris, calling him the “R” word, a word that we do not use in our home to define those with special needs. They filmed him falling down, yelled at him, and teased him. They ridiculed him; their punishment was simply running extra at practice. Chris forgave these boys; boys that he had watched grow from the time of Parks and Recs sports. Administration at the time, had the “boys will be boys” mentality because these were football stars and they were headed to state. As a family, we did not press charges although the opportunity was present as our property suffered damage, we had multiple calls to local law enforcement agents, and even went so far as to have the County Sheriff’s department mount cameras at our home to catch who was harassing and towards the end trying to enter our home. We never publicized this behavior, nor did we press the issue as the boys were at risk for losing scholarships and grants towards their education if we did. We chose not to act in a way that would jeopardize the lives and futures of young athletes and simply accepted apologies and moved forward. Many other events have occurred that led to more trips to the school to obtain apologies and attempt to have administration be more apt to correcting bullying within the school, not only for Chris’s sake, but for the sake of others with disabilities that could be placed in the same situation.
I have to ask, what are we doing as a school and as a community in allowing people to treat others poorly. Instead of correcting the ills at hand within the system and enforcing discipline and teaching young people and preparing them in life on how to treat others, we take those that are defenseless and victims out of the picture to guard the reputations and guard against bullying from occurring. Instead of taking people with special needs out of the equation, why not equip students with the opportunity to learn to work with, appreciate, love, and support those with special needs; because I’m here to tell you, as a sister of someone with special needs, you won’t find more dedication or love within the hearts of those we call “special”. Instead, Union High School has set a precedent that if their students choose to treat others poorly, it will be the “others” that is taken out of the equation so that it doesn’t happen further. This is not how life works in the real world; the entire purpose of school is to teach young individuals to be adults, how to treat others, how to conduct themselves, and how to respect, love, and appreciate people from all different walks of life.
It is a sad day when a community member who has dedicated their life to serving others within multiple sports programs; someone who has watched our children within the community grow from parks and rec sports programs to high school programs and served them throughout their lifetimes be told that they can partake in this no longer. It is shameful that someone who has required no pay, no glory, no honors, just simply a thank you is told that they can no longer spend their time doing what they love to do: serve others and see them succeed. You see, Chris is different, he isn’t like other people, he is special. He is special in a way that he doesn’t participate and serve in order to be praised and glorified; he serves because he loves others and he wants to see them win and love sports and he wants to see them be able to do things with their lives. He gets joy out of seeing your children win, and he’s there for them win, lose, or draw. The man who has mopped sweat off the floors, cleaned the gym, helped with fundraising, washed uniforms, carried water bottles, and did the job that most others would not humble themselves to do is punished because a school system has failed their students and community in their inability to safely and effectively run a school.
Chris’s heart was broken today. He is confused, and sad; as he does not understand. You see, because Chris only understands love towards others, and helping others; he doesn’t understand why people treat others bad or choose to not respect others; he doesn’t understand that the world is cruel and that’s what makes him special; he sees through a different set of eyes, and if more people had this perspective on life, the world would be a much happier, more fulfilled place.
So if you miss seeing Union’s number one fan this season; if you hear one less voice in the crowd, and see one less smile on the sideline, please understand that it was not our family’s choice; but the choice of Union High School.