Withholding diplomas still riles

Everyday People

Tom Loewy

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Not many people linger in the parking lot behind Romantix Adult Book and Video store.

Most visitors park their cars and hustle, head down, for the back door. They leave at the same pace.

And Tuesday's hot afternoon sun made Romantix's gravel lot as physically uncomfortable as many regard the store's social connotations.

But the nine people who gathered in the lot didn't care. Caisha and Carolyn Gayles, Nadia and Valeria Trent, Deyvon and Kanisha Lampkin and the Kelleys - Pamela, Carl and Amanda - all wanted to talk about Galesburg High School's decision to withhold diplomas following Sunday's commencement ceremonies.

"Actually, we met here because I work here," Carl Kelley said. "I called Amanda and her mom and told them I was going to talk to the media today.

"So they decided to come up here and they brought some people with them."

Caisha Gayles, Nadia Trent and Amanda Kelley were denied their diplomas and admission to the Project Graduation party after school administrators monitoring the ceremonies determined people in Roland O. Hegg Auditorium made too much noise while they crossed the stage. School officials attempted to take Deyvon Lamkin's diploma away after he mugged on stage and refused Kanisha Lamkin admission to Project Graduation.

"I was told I would never see the diploma" Nadia Trent said. "That's what they said to me - never. I couldn't believe it. This all over some rules that I don't think anyone broke.

"I don't think anyone was out of line or out of control during the graduation."

The rules were enacted to cut down on unruly behavior during the ceremony that prevented all guests from hearing names of the graduates when they were announced.

During graduation, four administrators patrolled the auditorium and graded all outbursts. Those students who sparked the worst reactions in the crowd were told after the ceremony their proof of graduation was their transcript.

Those who gathered in Romantix parking lot said they knew of three other students who didn't receive diplomas.

Carl Kelley said he understood Galesburg High School's desire to have an orderly graduation, but not the enforcement of the rules.

"Look, there were plenty of people who cheered for kids who weren't singled out and who got their diplomas," he said. "And let me tell you, the only people we saw who were denied diplomas were black or mixed kids. I'm white and I noticed. My niece is mixed and I think that might have made her a target."

Amanda Kelley's mom chimed in.

"People yelled for football players and cheerleaders and other kids," Pamela Kelley said. "They all got their diplomas. If you were white - or an important kid - you got your diploma."

Amanda Kelley said she had no idea why she was denied the symbol of her achievement.

"No one I know screamed or yelled for me," she said. "I don't know why they wouldn't give me my diploma.

"This is once. Graduation from high school only happens once and it was important to me. It was very, very important to me."

The group revealed that Galesburg High School contacted them Tuesday morning and offered a deal.

"They said that if the kids came in next Monday and did eight hours of community service, they could get their diplomas," Carolyn Gayles said. "I don't think it's fair. They worked for the diplomas."

Caisha Gayles and Nadia Trent said they had no intention of working eight hours to get back what they feel they rightfully earned.

Carl Kelley said his niece might do the time.

"But I don't want to Uncle Carl," Amanda Kelley said. "They can give me back the diploma, but they can't give me back the day.

"They can't give me back the Project Graduation I missed."

Pamela Kelley sobbed a bit.

"That's it. They can't give us back the experience," she said. "I didn't graduate from high school. Seeing my daughter get her diploma was a big deal."

The parking lot behind Romantix was hot and dusty. After a while, the group broke up and went their separate ways.

"I called Channel 8 and Don Moffitt's office and state board of education," Carl Kelley said. "I even called the governor's office. I'm not going to let this go."


Football 2007

See and hear the start of this year's high school football season by clicking on the image above.

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