Dead Utah student denied honorary diploma

, Posted: Fri, May 30 2014 at 11:28 AM, Updated: Fri, May 30 2014 at 1:33 PM

Tooele, Utah --- (KSL News) Graduation day Thursday proved bittersweet for one Utah mom who has been in a fight to get her son awarded with an honorary diploma following the teen's accidental death.

Nanci McConnell said her son Matthew had good grades and was on track to graduate from Stansbury High School prior to the ice fishing accident that took his life in February.

"We had no doubt that he would complete the last two terms," she said in a room at the Huntsman Center, across from where other Stansbury seniors collected their diplomas.

The 17-year-old McConnell was discovered alongside his father, Steven, in an ice hut at Flaming Gorge. Investigators at the time said the two died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

McConnell said since that time, Stansbury High School has retired her son’s baseball jersey number and planted a tree in his honor, but Tooele County School District administrators have refused to issue her son an honorary diploma.

“I don’t think it’s right for any family to have to go through this,” Matthew’s brother Michael McConnell said.

A moment of silence recognized Matthew at Thursday night’s graduation ceremony, along with fellow senior Jesse Horowitz, who was killed in a stabbing attack.

In a written statement, Tooele County School District Superintendent Scott Rogers said the Board of Education “will be considering future guidelines to outline standards and practices regarding student memorials.”

“What we do for one, we should do for all,” Rogers said in the statement. “Much effort has already been taken by individual schools to honor these students.”

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