Marion County school to allow sister to walk at graduation for sibling who died

by: Ken Tyndall Updated:

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MARION COUNTY, Fla. - Bellview High School administrators changed their minds Friday about allowing the sister of a student who died in December to walk across the stage during graduation to pick up an honorary diploma.

For days, administrators did not budge on their refusal to allow Summer Lynn to walk for her sister, Nikki Collins, who died of viral pneumonia days before Christmas.

The school said the decision was made because it didn't want to set a precedent.

They reversed course Friday and told Lynn she could walk in her sister's place.

"(They) apologized to me that it went the way it did," Lynn said. "And that they're going to allow me to walk in honor of my sister."

The decision to allow Lynn to walk for her sister came after Channel 9 told the story of another woman who was allowed to accept her brother's diploma after he was killed by a drunken driver in 2010.

"They allowed me to wear his robes, sit in his section, in his seat, and walk across the stage to accept his diploma," Ashley Smith said of her brother Jacob. 

Marion County Schools realized the precedent in this type of situation had already been set by Smith after checking their video archives. 

"In our minds, that set precedent," spokesman Kevin Christian said. "Unbeknownst to us at the district. Unbeknownst to that administration at the school today."

When Lynn walks in Collins' place next weekend, the school will allow her to wear her sister's cap and gown, and she plans to wear a charm containing her sister's ashes as well.

"I was, like, thinking of Nikki and said, 'There you are, baby, you're gonna walk,'" Lynn said.