Rickie Lee Tanner, a local country singer, was instantly suspicious when his 15-year-old daughter came home and told him she'd been elected Pacific High School's sophomore homecoming queen. She was excited, he said, to ride in a celebratory parade this coming Saturday.
"Our daughter has no friends that we have ever been aware of, no one has ever called her or came to visit or even invited her to a birthday party," Tanner wrote later, "so we were fully aware that something was wrong with the nomination when she told us."
What the Tanner family discovered thereafter was a plot as cruel as the movie Carrie, but were the tales they were told an exaggeration?
One thing is clear: A subset of the sophomore student body voted for Tanner's daughter as a joke. In an interview with Fox2, Tonya Tanner said while her daughter performs academically at a sophomore level, she has the emotional maturity of a ten year old. Here's a pretty touching description of her daughter's temperament from Tonya's blog:
She has ADHD and social disorder that makes her uncomfortable and awkward participating in basic social graces and early on we realized that making her engage in these normal rituals made her unhappy so we stopped trying to make her be normal and we started letting her be happy. In her mind she feels like everyone is her friend and it is always sunny in her world, so as long as she was smiling and happy who were we to judge her and force her to try to be like others.
After calling around to some other parents and receiving some anonymous emails, the Tanners discovered their daughter was the butt of a joke. They say she has an affinity with animals -- in particular, a duck that her family keeps on their property. Supposedly, students found this out and planned to pelt Tanner with eggs and quack at her during the homecoming reception.
In a rage, Rickie Lee posted this message to his Facebook page, which has a sizeable number of fans:
My mentally challenged teenage daughter was nominated for homecoming court as a joke by her peers. The kids found out that her only friend is her pet duck so they thought it would be funny to throw duck eggs at her in the parade and make quacking noises at her at the ceremony. Even the students and adults that didn't participate knew this was happening and never said a word. If you think that homecoming should be canceled at this school this year please send an email to the principal.
The message got an instant reaction from fans, who began forwarding it to local media outlets. Here's KDSK's story on the incident. A fair amount of negativity landed in the principal's voicemail, it seems.
But now, about a week later, school administrators say that they're not sure what the plot really was.
Randy George, superintendent of the Meramec Valley R-III School District, says that a number of students have been identified and punished over the incident. Discipline is up to ten days suspension and exclusion from any homecoming activities. He won't say precisely how many kids have been identified as plotters, since the investigation has not concluded.
"It's more than one, I'll put it that way. It's several," he says.
He says while initial reports said that the Tanner's daughter had been elected by a "landslide" in reality she'd gotten about 35 percent of the vote from her class. And he says there's been no evidence in the school's investigation that anyone was planning to egg or quack at the girl.
"I don't know where these rumors came about the egg throwing," he says. "We have nothing to go with on that one."
Reached by email, Tonya Tanner says the egging story may have been true, but no one was caught with concrete proof that they planned to do such a thing. She also released the following statement:
From the Tanner Family: We wanted to let everyone know that we appreciate their support during this difficult time. The school has assured us that the guilty parties in this tragic occurrence have been disciplined and will continue to be disciplined as the investigation into the incident is ongoing, and they are working with us to make sure that our daughter and the other students attending Pacific High School are happy and safe. Our daughter did attend school today. She felt that it was a good first day back. Our daughter has asked us to tell you to continue to pray for her and her family, and the kids that have to live with what they have done. She is sure they are sorry, she forgives them and she hopes everyone else will forgive them too. We will not be asking the school or others for any further punishment for the kids involved with attempting to hurt our daughter. We would rather have the community, parents, and school embrace this opportunity to mentor all of these kids, teach them about compassion, and guide them into being happy, caring adults. As apart of the healing process for our daughter and the other students she has decided to participate in the homecoming festivities. The superintendent and police chief have assured us that every precaution will be in place to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for all of the students, including our child.
'Tis the season for this kind of horrible shit, apparently. Here's another terrible story in Michigan that almost drove the girl to suicide.
It's not all bad. The Tanners' daughter has been receiving offers of a dress and hair services for the event via Facebook, even a crown and sash from the Miss Stars of the Universe pageant. This is one of the most recent posts from Rickie Lee Tanner's Facebook page:
Small step for man-kind here in Tanner world. We finally had 1 child from my daughter's school come to see her just to see if she is ok and offer her support. First friend visit for her in 5+ years. Doesn't seem like much but from our point of view it feels pretty good.
We'll just go ahead and assume that probably goes further than a comped manicure.