Over 500 Pinecrest High School students and their family and friends celebrated their high school graduation Saturday. However, what should have been a joyful day for some turned into a time of sorrow, anger, and regret.

According to social media reports, a group of parents and students designated to graduate were denied entrance to the ceremony when they arrived after 7:45 a.m., 15 minutes before the ceremony was scheduled to begin. 

Local resident, Cindy Miller, arrived at graduation to find Moore County School Police locking the gates and refusing entrance to distraught family members.

“I saw parents and grandparents begging to be let in,” said Miller. “When asked why they were locking the gates, the officers responded ‘they were told to do it.'”

At one point, an assistant Pinecrest High School Principal told the parents he would see what he could do, but he never returned. The families were directed to an area where the school provided a live video stream of the graduation.

Miller continued, “There was no parking and no way to drop people off. There were clearly plenty of spots available. Many parents had to walk from the Belk Plaza, which is over a mile away, with no police presence to direct traffic.”

According to another person at the ceremony,  “At around 8, I overheard Moore County School Police tell someone they were locking the gate, and no one could get in after the proceedings started. And that’s exactly what they did, just before the kids came out. People were standing in line and walking up and told they could go to overflow in the auditorium but couldn’t come in. A mother stood pleading and crying, and eventually yelling at the officials at the gates.”

When asked what should be done, Miller’s husband, Andy, offered, “There needs to be a larger venue and better parking. A task force needs to be established to ensure this never happens again.”

The Millers were there to support a close family friend whom they had helped to raise. “It was heartbreaking that no one was there for him,” said Cindy Miller.

Sandhills Sentinel reached out to Moore County Schools and received the following response from Director of Communications Catherine Murphy.

“The gates being closed at 7:45 a.m. was communicated in multiple connected messages (voice and email) to parents and students, at senior class meetings, at graduation rehearsal, as well as on the Pinecrest PTSA page and the Pinecrest website under the calendar notation on graduation. It was also printed directly on tickets. The reason being that it is a ceremony and late arrivals can disrupt the ceremony.

“The auditorium was open with a live stream of the event, and that was available to late arrivals. Parking was, indeed a challenge. Shuttles were operating along the road where people parked as well as to Pinecrest Plaza.”

Feature photo courtesy of Cindy Miller.

~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Local News/Government Reporter Chris Prentice.           Sandhills_Sentinel
   Contact him at chris@sandhillssentinel.com or (910) 639-9303.

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