LITTLE ROCK, AR- The family of a Bryant High School senior said she put in the work to finish early but now may not get the chance to walk across the stage after being late for a practice.
According to the family, Bryant senior Kylie Lewis arrived minutes late to her graduation rehearsal and was turned away at the gate of War Memorial Stadium, where the ceremony is scheduled to take place this weekend.
Lewis said she had a family emergency that caused her to miss the bus to graduation practice, and now she fears she may not be able to walk across the stage with the rest of her classmates on Saturday.
“My feelings were very, very hurt,” Lewis said. “I missed prom, so I thought I would at least be able to graduate.”
Lewis said that now the day she’s dreamed of as a kid may never happen. That loss is something her family and friends say should not happen.
“She made it to rehearsal before y’all even started,” family friend Kimberly Smith claimed. “She didn’t make it where she was supposed to. Where it’s mandatory to be.”
Smith took Lewis to the practice from her home in Pine Bluff and said when she and Lewis arrived at War Memorial Stadium they were stopped by the principal.
Smith recorded a video of her exchange with Bryant High School principal Tom Edwards.
Smith: “Honor roll student and she can’t walk.”
Edwards: “That’s correct.”
Smith: “Because she didn’t make it to the school to get on the bus in time, but she made it here at the same time you all did?”
Edwards: “That is correct.”
The video goes on to show Edwards saying, “It was planned ahead, and so you had all that time to plan. So, I’m sorry, that’s not an excuse.”
LaRhonda Martin, Lewis’s mother, said she couldn’t believe the way Edwards spoke to them.
“The way he handled us, the way he did my baby emotionally, he belittled her and made her feel this small,” Martin said.
The Bryant School District released a statement about this issue, noting that its policy on the issue is addressed in the student handbook, which notes that students “who do not ride the bus to and from graduation practice will not be allowed to participate in graduation without prior approval from the principal.”
District officials went on to say that the policy was made for safety reasons and has been in place for years. They added that students and parents were notified “multiple times” about the requirement to be present when the busses were loading at the school.
The family says it’s hard to respect a policy that does not allow emergency situations to be excused, especially after seeing a white student, who rode with a parent, be allowed to practice.
“It was a slap in the face,” Smith. “Not trying to be funny, but the only difference we see was our color.”
The school noted that the other student had gotten approval from the principal prior to the rehearsal.
Still, Lewis says the embarrassment left her feeling defeated, though she hopes the school will reconsider its decision.
“I worked so, so very hard, all the nights, staying doing all the work,” Lewis said. “Trying to stay focused and going through as many things as I went through, it kind of makes me feel like it wasn’t worth it.”