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Graduation Turns Violent When Parents Are Turned Away from Ceremony

The Short of It

The graduation ceremony at a Georgia high school turns to mayhem when police have to use force against unruly parents.

The Lowdown

It should have been a day to rejoice and reflect on the accomplishments of the graduating class of Tri-Cities High School in East Point, Ga. But when the graduation ceremony was moved indoors from the stadium to the gym because of rain, there was inadequate seating for everyone in attendance, so some relatives were told they couldn't watch their loved one get their diploma. That's when some family members became enraged.

One parent, Janelle Carter, described the chaotic scene to WSB-TV: "It was pushing and shoving, and don't push me, don't push, next thing you know, swings, arms, fists."

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The police were called, and at least one parent was tasered with a stun gun and arrested. But that didn't stop the anger many relatives were feeling over not being able to watch their kids graduate. One such family member in attendance, Wajeedah Price, said, "This is ridiculous. This is a once in a lifetime moment, and we can't see our kids graduate."

Another parent named Chet Boykin claims he was turned away even though he arrived for the ceremony two hours in advance.

"I was here at 5:30 p.m., and we still couldn't get in. They should've stopped it and scheduled it for another day," he said.

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For their part, the Fulton County School District says parents who arrived in advance were supposed to be allowed into the gym. Now, officials are looking into why prompt relatives were in fact barred from entering the gym to see the ceremony. Susan Hales spoke to the Daily Mail on the district's behalf, saying, "Due to rain, Friday's graduation ceremony was moved indoors from the school stadium, where it was originally planned. As a result, seating was limited, and students were given six tickets for admission to provide to their guests."

But she added, "Traditionally, graduation ceremonies at Tri-Cities have drawn about 3,500 guests in attendance. The school gym has a capacity of 2,400 and two additional viewing areas were arranged with large AV screens and speakers. The two viewing areas combined had the capacity for around 1,400 people, bringing the total seating to about 3,800. We're still determining why some guests did not gain entry as there should have been space."

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The Upshot

It's understandable that parents and out-of-town relatives who were excited to see their high schooler graduate would be extremely upset when they were turned away. But the ceremony taking such a violent turn benefited absolutely nobody.

The school definitely should have had a more logistically sound contingency plan in place for inclement weather, and moreover, that plan should have been explained to parents in advance.

Too bad this will be the memory students will have from their graduation.

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