Parents Forced to Wait Outside As Students Walk Down Aisle at GHS Graduation
The doors were locked for about a half-hour.
But there was anger outside the building. The graduation was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., but at 10:02, the doors to the building were locked, and parents, family members and friends weren't let inside for the beginning of the ceremony.
People banged on the doors, but it was to no avail. School District of Philadelphia security guards inside told them that they had to wait until the students had finished walking down the aisle to "Pomp & Circumstance" before they would be allowed in.
That meant hundreds of guests who were waiting outside missed that part of the ceremony. The doors remained locked until shortly after 10:30 a.m., when security officials let people in through one of the four doors at the building's entrance. The processional was over, the colors had been presented, the Star-Spangled Banner had been sung, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" had been performed and principal Margaret Mullen-Bavwidinsi had welcomed the graduates.
Salutatorian Jashawn Kelly was in the middle of his speech by the time many of those who had been waiting outside were allowed in.
District spokeswoman Shana Kemp said it is "common practice" for schools to lock the doors at graduation as the processional is about to begin, but said it's not district policy for them to do so.
"Tickets are given out well in advance of graduation (for students to share with family and friends) in order to ensure that the students have a nice, orderly ceremony," Kemp said in an email today.
A security official at the scene who declined to give his name said he was following orders from above by not letting parents in.
"That's how it's done for every graduation," the security official said.
But many of the parents had arrived up to ten minutes early only to find that there was lots of traffic inside the New Covenant campus. It took them time to find parking, and once they made their way to the entrance it was shortly after 10 a.m.
"I broke my neck to get over here," said Dana Moore, who had come to watch her 21-year old nephew graduate. She said he has special needs and said she helped raise him with her mother.
She said she hadn't been notified that the doors would be locked so soon after the start time.
Her sentiments were echoed by Lynetta Spence, who said she had taken the day off from work—like many others—to watch her niece graduate.
"Disappointed is an understatement," she said. "We missed the most exciting part, which is the graduates walking down the aisle.
"I don't get this," she said, shaking her head. "I don't get it."
A senior dressed in cap and gown waiting to graduate was locked out as well, and initially, security guards wouldn't let her in. But they eventually did after much pleading and begging from the masses outside.
It was about 10:05 a.m. when security guards told the crowd gathered outdoors that they would have to wait 10 minutes until they were let in. But by 10:25, the doors hadn't opened, and people started to get even more angry.
"Let me speak to the manager!" Dominique Ruffin yelled as she repeatedly banged on the door. (For video of the episode, click here.)
People were let in soon afterward through the door on the left. They walked into the ceremony and were able to watch the students get their diplomas and throw their hats in the air.
Moore was able to take solace in the fact that her mother made it inside before the doors closed.
"At least she's in there to enjoy it," she said.