Thousands sign petition asking NHCBOE to consider stadium graduation

The petition calling for football stadium graduations in New Hanover County has over 3,000 signatures (photo: WWAY)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The New Hanover County Board of Education voted to only allow drive-in or drive-thru graduation ceremonies for the county’s traditional high school students.

Many students and community members were upset with this decision.

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John T. Hoggard High School Seniors Ryan French and Jake Scanlan started a petition to hopefully get the board to reconsider their decision.

“We’ve already lost so much from missing our prom, I lost my senior season for my sport and we’ve lost so many other things,” Scanlan said. “We just wish for graduation that we’d be able to walk and be recognized for our accomplishments in front of our colleagues, classmates and family members. And just be able to actually have the memory that they’re trying to take away from us.” 

The petition, which now has over 3,000 signatures, supports a football stadium graduation.

Allowing for proper COVID-19 precautions to take place while still having an in-person ceremony.

A plan Laura Parks, mother of a Laney High School senior, feels is much more suitable than any drive in graduation.

She says an “auto-centered” ceremony is just not workable.

“First and foremost, it is not completely logistically sound, it is inequitable, there are safety concerns,” Parks said.

Among other concerns, Parks says not every family owns a car or a car with A/C to sit in the heat.

And some drive large, diesel trucks that could obstruct view and audio.

She says not being able to see or hear would cause people to exit their cars.

“Expecting people to remain in vehicles when they cannot see, hear or participate in what is going on is a joke. People will exit their cars. Lots more people than a controlled socially distant organized and seated stadium ceremony,” Parks said. “That’s exponentially more risks of COVID exposure and risk of being run over, by an approved flawed design.”
Parks says the drive-in ceremony plan failed to account for all students.
“The flawed plans fail to provide; participant safety, clear lines of sight for meaningful participation without segmented and segregated experiences, visibility, ingress or egress, traffic control,” she said. “Nor does is comply with, show sensitivity for, or accommodate ADA requirements for a whole host of considerations such as full inclusion, mobility, and vast other disability related needs.”

She says the plan is not really a plan at all.

“Not one aspect of it has been calculated, vetted, accounted for, or thought through at even the most basic levels of consideration or scrutiny,” Parks said. “They voted on a non-qualified set of non-solutions. Shoved their responsibility downward upon the schools with nothing but 2 unworkable ideas to go with.”

Parks emphasizes graduates and families intend to take all necessary safety measures if a stadium graduation is allowed.

“These graduates and these families who are pressing the county to do the right thing and have a stadium graduation intend to be respectful and compliant with what they need to in regard to COVID concerns,” Parks said.

Parks says she recognizes drive-in ceremonies have worked for other schools, but she says those schools have much smaller class sizes that those in New Hanover County.

Board Member Stephanie Adams stands by the decision.

“We are in unprecedented times, and although it pains me that the class of 2020 won’t be able to partake in a ‘traditional’ graduation ceremony that they have envisioned, I felt it necessary to err on the side of caution. COVID-19 numbers continue to climb in New Hanover County, and across the state of NC. I cannot in good conscience vote to allow an event that could potentially cause illness, hospitalization, and death for our students, their families, or NHCS staff. This was an excruciatingly heartbreaking decision that I know has caused anger and frustration, but for me, it is final; as a leader in this community, it is my responsibility to put health and safety first.

I am grateful for the work of the Graduation Task Force, and the leadership of our NHCS Administration during these difficult times.”

But Board Member David Wortman stands with the students and supports the idea of a stadium graduation.

He says the board members were elected to represent the community, so they have the duty to listen to them.

Wortman hopes the board will reconsider their decision on the ceremonies.

At the end of the day Friday, New Hanover County Schools released the following information regarding the drive-in/drive-thru ceremonies:

Drive-in/drive-thru graduation ceremonies for the New Hanover County Schools Class of 2020 will be held during the week of June 15-19, 2020 at Cape Fear Community College North Campus, 4500 Blue Clay Rd., Castle Hayne, NC 28429. The general public will have the option to view remotely via live streaming on Roku, Apple TV, and online at NHCS TV. A live radio broadcast of the ceremony will be aired as well. District officials are confirming event details, which will be available next week.


John T. Hoggard High School

Monday, June 15

Graduates with last names beginning with A-K-4 p.m.

Graduates with last names beginning with L-Z-7 p.m.


New Hanover High School

Tuesday, June 16

Graduates with last names beginning with A-K-4 p.m.

Graduates with last names beginning with L-Z-7 p.m.


E.A. Laney High School

Wednesday, June 17

Graduates with last names beginning with A-K-4 p.m.

Graduates with last names beginning with L-Z-7 p.m.


Eugene Ashley High School

Thursday, June 18

Graduates with last names beginning with A-K-4 p.m.

Graduates with last names beginning with L-Z-7 p.m.


Career Readiness Academy at Mosley PLC

Friday, June 19

All graduates 9 a.m.


Wilmington Early College High School

Friday, June 19

All graduates 5 p.m.


Isaac Bear Early College High School

Friday, June 19

All graduates 7 p.m.