New Bern High School seniors angry after finding out they can’t walk at graduation

More than 50 seniors at New Bern High School will not be walking during their graduation ceremony due to a failed course. (Source: WITN)
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 11:42 PM EDT

NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) -The New Bern High School community came together in frustration outside the Craven County Board of Education Monday night hours after several graduating seniors say their world was turned upside down.

“A lot of us will not be graduating, more than like 50 of us will not be graduating,” said Elijah Tripp, New Bern High School senior.

Members of the 2023 class say the school system delivered the news that more than 50 of them won’t be walking during Friday’s graduation ceremony due to a failed course or two, causing future college athletes like Tripp to be in limbo.

“Honestly, they could still put us in the classes now,” Tripp said. “Them refusing to do that just lets us know how much they really don’t care.”

Denise Magwood believes the decision has something to do with the suspension of Principal Jerry Simmons and Counselor Heidi Ricks.

“They’re going off to college to do something greater, which is what you as an educator have promoted and advocated for all 12 years,” Magwood said.

Craven County Public Relations Director Jennifer Wagner sent WITN a statement regarding New Bern High’s graduation requirements that reads:

“At the end of every school year our high schools are tasked with notifying parents whose students are not eligible to graduate based on the final outcome of their last semester of school.

In order for seniors to be eligible to graduate, they must meet all course and attendance requirements established by the state to earn credit toward achieving their diploma.

It is the goal of Craven County schools for all seniors to have an opportunity to walk with their classmates on graduation day.

We also offer many options to help students earn credit over the summer and receive their diploma once all necessary requirements are fulfilled.”

Students who failed say the school requires them to take the 72-hour course over the summer, which is why Magwood believes they should still be able to walk alongside their classmates with Simmons and Ricks in attendance.

“We want principal Simmons and Heidi Ricks at graduation, that’s what we want,” Magwood said.

Despite the uncertainty of their graduation status, students say they’ll continue to protest and rally until they have answers as to why they can’t walk.

The school system says Simmons and Ricks’ suspension status remains the same.