Students push for empty chairs at graduation for Chesapeake seniors involved in fatal crash

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – Several graduating seniors from Great Bridge High School have reached out to 10 On Your Side expressing their wish to have two empty chairs at graduation on June 16.

The chairs would be in honor of Kaitlyn Duffy who was killed Friday May 19 on Indian River Road and her passenger Sabrina Mundorff, who was severely injured in the crash. Mundroff remains in the hospital in critical condition, but no further information is available. According to police, Jerode Johnson, 31, of Norfolk has been charged with among other things involuntary manslaughter, maiming as a result of DUI, and DUI.

Loved Ones Remember Chesapeake Teen Killed in Crash

Many students do not believe the school administration is properly considering this request.

“It is a bitter reminder of life’s reality, “Never take life for granted. Live in the moment. Nothing is guaranteed,” says Alyssa Lawry who is junior at Great Bridge High School.

“She always made your day. I could be having a really bad day and I could be walking town the hall see her smile and say ‘Oh Duffy’,” says graduating senior Alyssa Meeks.

Meeks says all Great Bridge seniors support graduation including two empty seats in row with others who are graduating.

“I don’t think there is any kid in Chesapeake that doesn’t want their seats empty,” says graduating senior Raeann Jones. “It’s their spot and no one can take their spot. They deserve it. Why take their chair they worked for it. Four years of high school excellence, why take it away from them?”

Tuesday, 10 On Your Side received this statement from Kellie Goral, the spokesperson for Chesapeake Public Schools:

Our statement still stands. Graduation is a time of celebration for students, parents and guests. Appropriate recognition is being considered by school administration for schools that have lost students or staff.

We said last week, out of respect our focus was on the service and the funeral and that further discussion would take place this week. The school division was closed yesterday in observance of Memorial Day. As we progress through this week discussions will resume. Final decisions will be conveyed to Kaitlyn’s and Sabrina’s parents and then the graduating class, not the media. This is a very tragic and emotional time and communication needs to be with the appropriate individuals.”

It is clear the seniors want the seats in row with the other graduating seniors.

“The seniors want it, we are fighting for it, Kaitlyns’ family is fighting for it too. We should be able to do it. We should be able to mourn the way we want to mourn, and they are taking that away from us. It’s like our last goodbye,” Meeks says.

Kaitlyn’s family also want the seats left empty, the Duffy Family Statement reads:

“Please leave Kaitlyn and Sabrina’s seats unoccupied…we are confident in the school administration from Superintendent Roberts, to Chairman Dunn, to Principal Johnson, that we can put politics aside and that we can resolve this misunderstanding in order to honor our daughter Kaitlyn and to aid in her friend Sabrina’s healing.

The outpouring of love and support from this community has been more than we could have ever asked for.”

They not only want the seats left unoccupied, they want both families to be invited to accept the diplomas our children have rightfully earned.