Seventh-day Adventist student may miss HS graduation

Posted at: 10/16/2013 10:13 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A Cuba High School senior, on track to be the valedictorian, learned she likely won't be able to attend her own graduation.

She says it's all because of her religious beliefs.

Liberty Thompson is a star student. She's on the track and field team, the cross country team, and she's already completed nine college courses.

She's also a devout Seventh-day Adventist.

Cuba High School's graduation has been scheduled for a Saturday in May. But Saturday is a day of rest for Adventists.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not onto your own understanding," Thompson read from her favorite Bible verse on Wednesday.

For Thompson, words can be a light on a dark horizon.

"In all your ways acknowledge him," she reads from Proverbs.

These words come with a promise.

"And he will make your path straight," she reads.

It's that promise Thompson says guides her strong Seventh Day Adventist faith.

"Instead of going to church like everybody else does on Sunday, we go on Saturday," said Thompson.

Saturday church means Thompson misses basketball games, track meets, and dances. But Saturday's are just too important.

"That's my little private time with God," said Thompson.

But this school year another important event will fall on a Saturday in May: Cuba High School's graduation.

Thompson's father Dwight says graduations have long fallen on Fridays until last school year. Last year, Cuba Schools changed high school graduation to a Saturday.

"For her not to be able to walk with her classmates is a tremendous disappointment," said Dwight Thompson.

Dwight is fighting alongside his daughter to get the district's calendar changed.

He asked for a spot on Wednesday night's board meeting agenda, so Liberty could ask the district to change graduation to a Friday.

But that never happened. Liberty was never put on the agenda.

"We have a right," said Dwight Thompson. "This is our school. These are our kids."

Dwight Thompson argued openly with board president Christine Montoya on Wednesday. Montoya says the state board of education told the district its calendar is no longer changeable.

"Date's already set. We don't want it to change. You can't do anything about it," said Liberty Thompson.

A major bump in Liberty's straight and narrow path, but she says it changes very little.

"Do you see yourself giving up?" asked KOB Eyewitness News 4 reporter Caleb James.

"Not any time soon," she said.

Dad Dwight presented the board with a petition signed by dozens of students at Cuba High urging the district to change graduation.

He says after Wednesday and the snub of the agenda he plans to make a civil rights complaint with the State of New Mexico.