high school graduation
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Racist Antics Mar High School Graduation Ceremonies in Mississippi and North Carolina

Despite the many hardships that graduating classes of 2021 all across the country have had to endure, finishing school in the midst of a pandemic, high school officials in at least two states couldn’t resist blemishing what should be a moment of celebration with some tired, racist antics — including taking away a diploma from a student trying to display his Latin pride to changing the rules for valedictorian and salutatorian in another so Black students weren’t the only ones honored for their achievements.

Cynthia Silva of NBC News reported that in the city of Asheboro, North Carolina, school administrators denied a student his diploma after he “violated school dress code” and draped a Mexican flag over his graduation gown.

“Adolfo Hurtado was filming his cousin, Ever Lopez, during the ceremony, watching him walk down the stage at Asheboro High School wearing a Mexican flag draped over his gown, when he appeared to get stopped by a faculty member,” Silva reported. “Lopez was seen initially taking off the flag but kept it on after audience members encouraged him to do so.”

The recorded incident has since gone viral on TikTok with numerous people outraged by the school’s behavior.

“Sadly, he did not get the diploma. The teacher wants him to apologize — obviously, he’s not going to do that,” Hurtado said in a second video he posted after the incident occurred.

Witnesses at the graduation say the administration official who stopped Lopez was school principal Penny Crooks, who was then booed by those in attendance for her actions. Lopez was allowed to receive his diploma holder but has yet to receive the actual diploma certificate as Crooks is said to be requesting an official apology for his actions. 

The Asheboro school system claims the incident was “not about the flag” but rather Lopez disobeying the dress code. However, other students had reportedly decorated their caps and gowns but weren’t reprimanded. 

“Students planned a protest at the high school Friday and a Change.org petition demanding Lopez be given his diploma received over 20,000 signatures,” Silva reported.

In an equally offensive turn of events, two Black graduating students in Mississippi have been forced to share the titles of valedictorian and salutatorian with two white students in what many are calling an ultimate display of “white privilege.” After parents complained, the school changed the rules for how the honors were selected just hours before the graduation ceremony took place.

Charise Frazier of NewsOne reported that “a Mississippi community is rallying around two Black teens awarded top honors at their local high school after school district administrators added additional metrics, allowing for two white students to share the titles of valedictorian and salutatorian.”

According to Frazier, “Administration officials at West Point Consolidated School District located in West Point, [Mississippi] are currently being dragged over allegations of racism and white privilege after the news was made public this week.”

Local newspaper Mississippi Today wrote that students Ikeria Washington and Layla Temple were named district valedictorian and salutatorian days before their graduation ceremony was scheduled to take place. However, on the day of the actual ceremony, school officials decided to change the criteria by which the honors were awarded, allowing two white students — Dominic Borgioli and Emma Berry — to also be honored for their achievements.

“Community members were rightfully outraged, prompting the school district to release a statement to WCBI News in an attempt to explain the selection process,” Frazier said.

“There are two methods to determine a student’s class rank. The first is Quality Point Average, or QPA. The second is Grade Point Average, or GPA,” the statement reads. “The two students with the highest GPA are Dominic Borgioli and Emma Berry. The WPCSD feels it necessary to recognize all four seniors at graduation.”

Friends and family of Washington and Temple — the students forced to share their honors — are, of course, rightfully incensed, taking to social media and talking to numerous local reporters to vent their anger. They also claim that the school “was forced” to change the rules due to “parent intimidation” — an accusation Borgioli and Berry’s families insist is false.

Washington and Temple reportedly felt humiliated and disrespected by administration officials. Both families have planned to meet with the district school board later this month to fully address the issue.

 

Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.

 

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