ARHS graduate Dylan Akalis receives diploma via Holyoke School Committee member Erin Brunelle yesterday in the backyard of this grandfather's house
As graduation parties go it was all wonderfully typical: Proud parents, lots of extended family, friends, classmates; well wishers both young and old, with enough variety of race and ethnicity to make the United Nations proud.
But the b-i-g difference is this party started before the diploma was issued, with the party's guest of honor the only person present in a cap and gown. And the person who handed him his hard earned diploma was indeed a public school official, but from another city.
Yes for Dylan Akalis it's been an up and down senior year, but the final outcome -- graduating from Amherst Regional High School in spite of being banned from the June 6 graduation ceremony at the Mullins Center -- was still sweet.
Dylan you may remember was bullied by three black youths (physically assaulted by one of them) for use of the supposedly hip version of the N-word to congratulate a black friend for a stellar basketball performance.
School officials did nothing to stop the harassment, so in self-defense Dylan anonymously posted to a Facebook confessions site a threat about bringing a weapon to school.
As a result the High School was closed for a day (even though authorities identified Dylan many hours before the start of the school day) on Monday, January 27th. Dylan was handed a 12 day suspension for use of the N-word and invoking a weapons threat.
Most hurtful, however, was the erroneous allegation that Dylan was a racist.
Feeling betrayed by the Amherst schools the family kept Dylan out for the rest of the year, assuming since he had enough credits Dylan would be allowed to graduate and march with his friends at the graduation ceremony. Wrong.
Amherst school officials did say they would send a high ranking administrator to the planned June 22 party to officially hand him his diploma. So that was something. Sort of.
But when Superintendent Maria Geryk fired Dylan's dad a few weeks back for using the common electrician term "master and slave units" in front of a black school employee, Dylan decided he wanted nothing more to do with Amherst school officials. Ever.
Thus no official representative from Amherst Regional Public Schools attended the Sunday graduation celebration.
Too bad, because they could have learned a thing or two about family values.