Between 60 and 70 grads were told that their diplomas are being withheld as part of a new policy punishing those students who received any applause or shout-outs after their names were called during the graduation ceremony.
They will be able to collect their diplomas on Monday.
According to eyewitness accounts, angered parents clamored for their children's diplomas outside of the old gym following the ceremony. Parents were told that an administrator would come and address their concerns, but instead the doors to the building were locked and police called out to keep the situation under control.
Parents and grandparents then drove to the A.B. Gibson Center and were met by officers who threatened to arrest anyone who did not leave the premises.
Vernicetine Penny was irate that her daughter, Antionque Penny, did not get her diploma after completing her coursework at the School of Visual and Performing Arts.
"Our children walked these halls for 12 to 14 years," Penny said. "They can not be disciplined because of what someone else did. They did what they were supposed to do in school to get this piece of paper, so why are they being held accountable for somebody else."
Penny said she had no idea who cheered for her child at the ceremony.
"I don't know who shouted," she said. "There were other people shouting. How can they prove who shouted. People can not like you and shout your child's name if they know that the decision could be made to hold the diploma. They can't prove who shouted."
Her daughter had a number of issues with the school, the last of which was a $500 bill from the band, delivered to her the day before graduation, that had to be paid before a diploma would be issued.
"I paid off her debt and they still did not give my child her diploma," she said. "It was not because of her, but because me and (Principal Jonathan) McRae got into a dispute."
Shen Campbell, a graduate of the School of Math, Science and Technology, was among those seniors who will have to wait three days for his diploma.
"My diploma was pulled out – I don't know why," Campbell said. "They say if they hear your group holler your name, they'll check out your name on the chart and they will hold your diploma against you because no one should be shouting names, but I didn't hear my group so I don't know why they took my diploma ... This is my moment, but I'm not angry, I'm not upset. I'll just explain to them on Monday."
He said it "doesn't make any sense" for administrators to hold diplomas because of outbursts.
"No one should be punished because this is our day and at every ceremony, everybody has shouted their name so there is no reason to hold our diploma," Campbell said.
Reva Jackson, a graduate of the School of Leadership and Public Service, made no apologies for vocally supporting her friends, a tradition that cost her getting a diploma following the ceremony.
"I'm going to holler for them," she said. "They are going to holler for me, it's graduation – it's what you're supposed to do. It's stupid. I did what I was supposed to do. I passed my classes, I got my grades and I was able to walk across the stage but I can't get my diploma."
Wendy Jackson, Reva Jackson's mother, favored voting out the Scotland County Board of Education over the diploma issue.
"My tax dollars that paid for her to come to school is paying for these people in here that are trying to hold these diplomas," she said.
The decision to withhold her daughter's diploma has diminished her accomplishment and that of everyone else who is going home empty handed, Wendy Jackson said.
"Today, they have ruined graduation for Scotland County Schools," she said. "First they ruined it by making them the Guinea Pigs and making them graduate at nine o'clock in the morning, where us parents had to take off; second, they have sat there and ruined it because they will not give them their diploma."
Kozma McLean said there is no reason to hold her daughter's diploma as she videotaped the ceremony and can prove that her family did not shout out her son's name.
"I have empirical evidence that I did not yell and I did not say anything," she said. "I asked them if they could view the video tape so they could see that I did not yell, but they refused to pay attention to the tape."
McLean said she obeyed the policy and her child was still punished.
"Some of us did not yell and followed the instructions like the school asked us to and this is what we get. It's a shame that some students work really hard ... and this is their end result. This is not fair."
Ethel Stanner, who came from Wisconsin with her husband, Tony, to watch their granddaughter graduate was also upset about the decision to withhold diplomas.
"I think it's ridiculous," Stanner said. "After all the years they put in, they should have the diploma."
At least one school board member was upset about diplomas being held.
Vice-Chairman Mary Evans said it's no surprise that family and friends of graduates cheered for the seniors as they walked across the state.
"This is a celebratory event and it is hard to contain the excitement of the kids and the parents and the grandparents," she said.
Upholding the rules is one thing, she said, but keeping a number of graduates from getting their diplomas was too much.
"I don't think that it should happen to the magnitude that it causes protests," she said. "I would have hoped that it could have been handled a little bit better."
She also questioned how administrators could decide which of the 412 graduates deserved to have their diplomas withheld.
"How do you come to the conclusion that the family members of these students were involved," she asked.
Evans said board members try not to "micromanage" administrators, who made the decision on holding diplomas.
"We try to let the administrators do what they do best," she said. "When it becomes a board issue is when we get involved."
She said they may need to "reshape" the policy.
"I think Scotland County had a lot to celebrate today with all the children graduating," Evans said. "The focus should have been on that instead of trying to restrain them. It's an unfortunate situation and it saddens me."
Superintendent Rick Stout said he stood behind the high school administrators who developed the policy.
"(Executive Director of Secondary Education) Myra (Holloway) and the high school staff made a decision on how they would handle noise in the stands and make it a dignified event," Stout said.
School spokesman Andy Cagle also defended the policy.
"We very clearly communicated the expectations to students and the parents, and it was re-communicated a number of times during the graduation ceremony," Cagle said. "Everyone in that stadium knew the expectational behavior and knew the consequences. Some people chose not to comply. They can come back Monday and pick up their child's diploma."
Administrators tried to be understanding to the celebratory nature of graduation and allowed families to cheer before the presentation of diplomas, he said.
"Holloway got up at the beginning of the ceremony and gave everyone a chance to wave at their kids, to scream, to do all that so when we got to the actual ceremony where we were conferring diplomas, that parents were able to hear their kids' names called," Cagle said.
During the ceremony, Holloway explained the policy.
"As we celebrate this occasion, please offer the gift of a dignified graduation ceremony," she said. "All students and their parents deserve to hear their name called during the graduation ceremony. Please refrain from yelling out names and any applause until all graduates have been honored.
"All of us want to hear the melodious sound of students' names and see their beaming smiles on their faces. If you choose to yell out and disrupt the graduation, you will be escorted from the stadium and your students' diploma will be held until you make an appointment with the principal."
Similar warnings were repeated several times during the ceremony.
"We want graduation to be a dignified event," Stout said. "Somewhere along the line, we have to get back to what graduation is all about."
Cagle said that the ceremony actually went better than it had in years past.
"I hate that this thing overshadows the accomplishments of our 400 plus graduates," Cagle said.