YUCCA VALLEY — David Ericson graduated from Yucca Valley High School in January, a semester early.
He was set to lead the senior class in next month’s graduation procession in his U.S. Marine Corps dress blues after returning from boot camp.
Ericson never made it; he committed suicide Feb. 23.
Reyna Madrid, Ericson’s mother, wants to be presented with her late son’s diploma during the June graduation ceremonies. School officials have denied her request.
There is a precedent. In 2006, the parents of Darla Denise Davenport and Jonas Nyberg both went to the stage to receive their children’s diplomas at the Yucca Valley High School graduation.
Davenport was killed in a traffic collision and Nyberg had succumbed to cancer during the school year.
But Madrid said a school secretary, told her suicide is not promoted by the school and an official will only mention her son’s name during the ceremony; she can pick up his diploma the next day in the school office.
“Just the way she spoke to me was insane,” a tearful Madrid related of the phone call with the school. “I was like, ‘Am I really hearing this?’”
Madrid took her case to the district office but received no help there, either. She said Assistant Superintendent Tom Baumgarten told her he would call the high school and ask Principal Carl Phillips to call her. That call never came.
When Madrid called the school again, the same secretary told her she would not be allowed to go on stage to pick up the diploma. The decision had been made by the senior class.
“I got upset,” Madrid related.
She didn’t understand how the school could judge her son for how he died. “Don’t you know he was sick?” she said. “Depression is a sickness.”
According to Madrid, the secretary said she was sorry but there was nothing she could do; she was just repeating what she had been told.
Madrid was advised by an attorney to “make noise,” so she called the Hi-Desert Star Monday.
Baumgarten declined to speak on the record regarding the matter, citing privacy concerns for the family. The administrator confirmed that the decision not to allow Madrid to accept Ericson’s diploma was made by members of the senior class.
The Star’s email message Monday to student body adviser Scott Phillips and a telephone message Wednesday to the principal asking for information went unanswered.
The only positive aspect of her son’s death, Madrid said, was the donation of his organs.
“His heart is beating somewhere, his lungs are breathing.” Ericson’s liver, pancreas and corneas were also harvested for transplant. Madrid has letters that six recipients are doing fine after receiving her son’s organs.