Family fights SA high school to include deceased student in graduation ceremony

Robert E. Lee student Adriana Rodriguez passed away before starting senior year

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio woman has fulfilled a promise she made to her dying sister. 

Robert E. Lee High School student Adriana Rodriguez passed away last September, weeks after her classmates started their senior year without her. 

Rodriguez's sister, Elizabeth Leos, said she had to put up a fight to get the school to honor Adriana at this weekend's graduation ceremony. 

Rodriguez was an active part of the Lee campus in academics, as a 3-year member of the cheer-leading squad and other activities. 

"Adriana was a ray of sunshine. She was a great student," Leos said. "She loved going to school. One of the first things she asked when initially diagnosed was, what about school." 

In April 2015, Rodriguez was diagnosed with Lymphoma when her lung collapsed unexpectedly.

"It was a quick diagnosis. She was short of breath one day and she was diagnosed with lymphoma," Leos said. "It progressed from there, 9 days later she was diagnosed with Leukemia. That was probably the worst news ever."

Unable to complete her junior year, Lee teachers agreed she met the academic requirements to be promoted to the 12th grade with only two credits needed to graduate.

"After about two weeks of not being in class or returning to school, due to her academic history Northeast School District came to the conclusion that they were able to grade her out," Leos said. "They looked back at all of her academic history and it was consistent, she was a great student."

Despite the long road that lay ahead of her, Rodriguez was determined to recover and return for her senior year.

"She was expected to only miss the first 6 weeks of school and she never came home," Leos said. "She passed away on September 19, 2015."

Even after her death, Adriana's classmates continued to honor her. She remained on the cheer roster, was selected as a Peer Assisted Leadership Skills member and the school even held an 'orange out' out a football game to raise awareness about Leukemia.

The yearbook staff even raised money to give her a full page memorial in the yearbook.

But two weeks ago, Leos and her family learned the school had no plans to include Rodriguez in the graduation ceremony. They thought it was a mistake and contacted the school.

"We were told that she would not be receiving a diploma about a week ago," Leos said.

Leos then wrote a letter to NEISD leaders and was again told there was nothing they could they do because Adriana had not met the requirements.

Leos reached out to the KSATDefenders and within a day the school contacted her and said they would honor Adriana at Saturday's graduation and present the family with a diploma.

Aubrey Chancellor, a spokeswoman for NEISD, said it was all a mistake that took some investigating to clear up.

"There is a provision in state law that does allow students who have passed away to receive a posthumous diploma as long as they are classified as seniors and they were on track to graduate," Chancellor said. "We have been able to determine that she does meet the criteria and we were happy to let the family know that today. Unfortunately, the principal had gotten information that wasn't exactly accurate and upon investigation she was pleased to bring that news to the family."

Leos said the family is happy Adriana will be honored but believe it shouldn't have required a fight to fulfill a promise to a sick girl.

"As promised I will finish her year for her and if that means getting her her diploma however I need to get it, I'm going to get it. "It shouldn't have gone this far, we shouldn't have had to do all this."

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