To the editor:
My name is Remy Dudson. I was a student at Adel-De Soto-Minburn High School from 2017 to 2021. During my sophomore year, I underwent several different stressors that ultimately led to two psychiatric hospitalizations in January 2019.
I was suicidal. At this time I was suffering from diagnosed major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and was later diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which affected my life in high school as well.
I didn’t have many friends, and going to school was a battle I fought each day. The students were never the problem. Despite not having many friends, I found most of my issues came from the staff, especially the principal and counselors.
Following my hospitalizations, I was put in an intensive outpatient program that caused me to miss a lot of classes. This led to several problems, such as being expected to play catch up by the principal and other teachers.
During this time, I was in and out of the counselor’s office frequently. When I felt a meltdown coming on, I would go to the counselor’s office to ride it out. This was fairly common for me, up until I was one time kicked out of the counselor’s office during an anxiety episode.
I was expected to go to class and deal with anxiety strong enough to be causing me physical pain. On top of that, during this time I caught pneumonia. That semester, I was in PE and was harassed by the PE teachers for not being able to keep up due to my weak lungs from pneumonia.
These stories are mild compared to what happened at my graduation. During my sophomore year, I came out as transgender — nonbinary, to be specific. I also changed my name to Remy. At this time, teachers and staff had no problem calling me Remy and respecting my pronouns.
I was and am very comfortable with my identity and things went fairly well with that until my senior year. I started the year online due to COVID-19 and eventually transitioned back into the classroom.
When I came back to in-person learning, the administration staff had an issue with calling me by my preferred name. I often found myself correcting them almost every time I spoke to them. This went on up until December, when my mental health started to decline again.
With this, I reached out and tried to get help from the administration and counseling staff. In need of an occasional mental health day, I asked the principal, Lee Griebel, about his policy on mental health days. His response was: “We don’t do mental health days here.”
As my mental health continued to decline, I decided the best thing for me was to get out of high school as fast as I could.
Luckily, I was able to graduate a semester early. Leaving high school was the best possible outcome for me. I remember being so excited to walk with my class that spring, as it had been a long and painful journey that I couldn’t wait to celebrate.
When it came time for graduation rehearsal, I remember them calling me by my former name. No big deal, I had thought to myself, and I reminded them to call me Remy. That was where the issue was.
Griebel refused to announce my name as Remy over the intercom and told me that it was against “policy” to announce anything other than someone’s legal name. That would have been a valid excuse had there actually been something in the school’s policy about announcing names at graduation.
So I chose not to walk, and he told me he’d try and work something out and had me sit on the bleachers. By this point, I was ugly crying in front of my entire graduating class. The moment that I worked so hard for had just been stripped away from me.
One of the secretaries came over and told me that if I didn’t want to walk, I needed my parent’s permission. Granted, at this point I was almost 19 and more than capable of making my own choices. She told me that I was disrespecting my parents by not walking and that I needed to be grateful for the name that my parents had given me.
I have, to this day, never felt more disrespected in my life.
Ultimately, I ended up not walking at graduation and was left with a lot of trauma from the event. I still get flashbacks of the event whenever I enter the town of Adel. It’s painful.
One of the worst parts of this whole story would have to be their holding onto my diploma for several months after I graduated, only giving it to me when my mother called the school and complained several times about it. Originally, they had said that they lost my diploma, but with enough prodding from my mother, they suddenly “found it.”
I was lucky. Despite all of my attempts, I am still alive today. I’m not proud of being an ADM alumni. My time in high school was the worst period of my life, and I would not wish what I went through upon anyone else.
Every day since I’ve heard, I’ve thought of Caelen and the pain that he must’ve gone through. I sincerely hope he and his family find peace.