WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Many attending North Davidson High School’s graduation cried tears of disappointment rather than joy on Saturday, as several parents were told they could not enter.
The event took place inside Saint Peter’s World Outreach Center in Winston-Salem, a church that holds a capacity of 3,200 people.
School officials said they gave out enough tickets — 3,156 — but parents said they were still turned away.
Hundreds of friends and family members of the graduating students stood outside the church instead of watching the ceremony inside.
Amy Wallace is a mother who wanted to watch her daughter graduate. She said she was denied entrance despite having three extra tickets.
“They told me I would be arrested if I tried to step in to take one picture of my daughter,” she said.
Chief Chris McMillan with the Winston-Salem Fire Department said fire officials stopped by the event to see why there were so many people at the church.
McMillan said the fire department did not shut the doors because of capacity. He said it was the schools’ decision.
Though parents were able to watch the graduation in the lobby on TV, Wallace said she missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“It’s something I will never be able to get back,” she said. “I don’t care for the ceremony, I know they probably put on a great show, but I just want to be able to take one picture of my daughter, but instead they said I could buy a CD.”
Some of the graduates said they feel like they missed out too.
“I saw plenty of seats up there for at least my mom to come in and they didn’t even let her in,” said Stephanie Fulk, a North Davidson High School graduate. “I was really upset because my mom didn’t get to see me.”
School administrators said they are trying to figure out what went wrong and said they apologize to the families who were disappointed.
“It was the most disorganized graduation that I have ever been to,” said Phyllis Walker, who said she missed the graduation.