GREENSBURG (KDKA) — A decoration displaying the names of Greensburg-Salem High School graduates who died came under fire on social media Thursday.
The display on an office door in Greensburg-Salem High School featured five tombstones bearing the names of graduates with a caption “THE PARTY’S OVER” in red letters.
The names included Jordan Cobb, Mike Simpson, Sheila Fennell, Jimmy Cook and Rachel Parker.
Cobb and Simpson were killed in a car crash in 2011. Simpson, who was driving, had a blood alcohol level of .147. Simpson and Cobb were both 19 years old and were on their way home from a friend’s graduation party, where the friend’s mother allegedly provided a half keg of beer. Eighteen-year-old Carly Kudray was also killed in the crash, and police believe the teens had been drinking at her father’s home before the party.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in May that 19-year-old Sheila Fennell lost control of her vehicle and crashed on the Parkway East while she was driving home from a concert.
Jimmy Cook, 20, was found dead in the Monongahela River on Oct. 10, 2005, according to the Tribune-Review. He went missing a few days earlier after celebrating a friend’s 21st birthday.
Eighteen-year-old Rachel Parker was killed in a head-on car crash in April 2012. According to the Tribune-Review, Parker’s 21-year-old boyfriend told police that they had shared a bottle of rum at Parker’s house before the crash.
A photo of the controversial display was posted on Facebook with the caption, “This is how they honor these young people that lost their lives in Greensburg Salem.”
The post was shared hundreds of times and many people commented, saying they found the display disrespectful and upsetting.
A letter posted to the Greensburg Salem School District website says the door was decorated as part of the Red Ribbon Week Celebration. Superintendent Dr. Eileen Amato says Red Ribbon Week promotes leading a healthy lifestyle free of alcohol and drug use.
“One classroom door was decorated with good intentions but was insensitive to the memory of former Greensburg Salem students who have passed away,” the letter says.
Nineteen more names were added to the door before it was finally removed.
Amato says the district contacted family members of Cobb, Simpson, Fennell, Cook and Parker to offer their sincere apologies.
Mollie Cobb, Jordan Cobb’s mother, says she agrees with the message they were trying to send, but not how it was conveyed.
“I get that it is a reality, but not to be so disrespectfully done,” she said.
Cobb says she spoke directly with district officials and told them if they need help getting kids to understand the cost of drinking and driving, she’ll be happy to talk to students directly.
“Think next time. People are hurt,” she said. “These kids were bright kids. They didn’t deserve to be paper tombstones on a door.”