Highlands County School District Robs Student of Graduation Ceremony

Highlands County School District Robs Student of Graduation Ceremony

Jim McCool
Jim McCool
May 26, 2022

Highlands County School District, more specifically, Lake Placid High School, intends to bar one of their students from attending graduation along with his classmates.

In a case of standardized testing, the student, who will remain anonymous, was falsely accused of cheating on one of his final exams.  Unfortunately, he had his phone on his person, but test proctors soon confirmed that the student did not cheat.

Nevertheless, the test was still invalidated by the school.  This has resulted in the school deciding that the student, who even put in extra work to prove his ability to graduate, would not be allowed to attend the graduation ceremony that his friends and brother will be attending.

The fight is currently ongoing for the student between the Highlands school district and a number of distraught parties.  The Floridian spoke to a representative of the child, Melissa Mangino, Senior Advocate at Florida Professional Special Education Advocates.  Mangino, who is reasonably fired up over the situation stated, "This is a case of where reasonablenesses and the best interest of a student are being overlooked in order to adhere to a school board policy. However, in the same vein, School Board of Highlands County also has a policy (school board policy 0118) that states the board has the authority to exercise their best judgment in determining policies, making decisions, and approving procedures for caring out the responsibility."

Mangino added, "This is an unfortunate case where a student who has no behavioral issues and has worked extremely hard to make it through school is being denied the opportunity to walk across a stage and hear their name called. The parent is not asking the school to give their child a diploma or say that their child graduated. They are merely asking for their son to have the chance to celebrate all he has accomplished in the educational system and walk across the stage after his twin brother."

Not only does the student have an impeccable record in terms of conduct, but has also been awarded the Alex Barajas Memorial Scholarship in addition to two other scholarships, fruits of a good work ethic and intellect.

The Floridian also spoke to the mother, Karen Waldron, who stated, "It's scary to see these kids are just not supported, and if you don't have a parent that can voice for the kids, they get swept underneath the rug, and to me that's just not what education should be about."

The Florida Department of Education has reigned in on this matter.  According to Waldron, the DOE, who has not told the school district what to do, has taken the position that it is purely up to the discretion of the school to award the student with a graduation or not.  Now, it is purely at the hands of local school officials, such as Principal Kevin Tunning, to give this student what he has clearly worked diligently for.

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Jim McCool

Jim McCool

Jim is a graduate of Florida State University where he studied Political Science, Religion and Criminology. He has been a reporter for the Floridian since January of 2021 and will start law school in 2024.

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