Fifteen students who were turned away from Bryan Station High School's graduation ceremony because they were late or had not followed the dress code were given plenty of notice about the rules, Fayette County Public Schools said in a statement Saturday night.
They had been warned in advance that they would not be allowed to participate in the ceremony if they arrived after 12:15 p.m. or were not dressed properly.
Tanya Aguon sobbed in the live video in which she said that her son was not permitted to walk across the stage because he was wearing jeans and tennis shoes beneath his gown.
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"In this particular case, the student not only arrived out of dress code, but also arrived after the start of the ceremony, which allowed no time to get him into proper attire and join the processional," Randy Peffer, Fayette County's chief of high schools, said in a statement. "Separately, there were also students who had arrived just two minutes before graduation started and were unable to participate. It is unfortunate that these individuals then attempted to interrupt the celebration for the rest of their classmates."
The district said some of the graduates who were not allowed to walk with the rest of their class "shouted from the audience and came down to the railings closest to the arena floor and tried to be disruptive."
District staff members escorted them out of Rupp Arena. A spokeswoman said the school district's law enforcement officers provide security at all the graduation events.
"At the end of the ceremony, our staff sought the students out and gave them their diplomas so they did not leave the event empty-handed," the district said.
The district said three students were prohibited from participating in Tates Creek's graduation, and two students were kept out of Lafayette's. No students were turned away from Paul Laurence Dunbar, Henry Clay or Frederick Douglass high schools' graduation ceremonies.
The school district did not provide a reason for why so many more Bryan Station students were turned away this year.
While the district does not keep records regarding how many students are kept out of the ceremonies every year, the statement said it is usually not more than one or two.
"All six Fayette County high schools have common expectations for dress code and arrival times, and our students and their families are made aware of these requirements multiple times during the months and weeks leading up to graduation," Peffer said. "The expectations and their enforcement are consistent across all six schools and have been in place for several years. Students are able to arrive as early as an hour before the ceremony begins, and this year we added an additional 30 minutes between ceremonies to allow extra time for traffic.
"Schools go above and beyond to make accommodations for individual situations and assistance is available to any student needing help. In fact, we had one teacher give his slacks to a student in order to allow him to participate in the ceremony, and one high school principal personally bought graduation outfits for several students."
There were more than 2,750 graduates in Fayette County's 2018 class. Peffer said that "months of coordination, communication and preparation go into making the graduation ceremonies special for our students, their families and our entire community."
The incident created a flurry of conversation on social media. While some commenters sympathized with the students, the majority said the rules were clear and should have been followed.