PINE BLUFF, Ark. – Watson Chapel High School held its graduation on Tuesday, May 10th at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. 

For some Watson Chapel graduates, it was a graduation day that turned memorable for the wrong reason. 

A lot of families who wanted to see their loved ones walk across the stage were stuck outside because of the line to get checked by security.

The security check process led to a line that we’re told was wrapped around the building.

Shade Culclager JR missed his granddaughter’s graduation.  “To not be able to see my granddaughter cross that stage and hear her name called and to receive her diploma, man it was heartbreaking.”

Shade Culclager was among the many people standing in line waiting to get through the metal detectors at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. Culclager says the line was moving “at snail’s pace.”

 Culclager says he got in line at 6:25 pm and the graduation was over when he made it inside. The ceremony started at 7:00 pm.

“By the time I got into the venue it was something until 8:00 pm, and there were still hundreds of people behind me.”

Joseph McCorvey, Executive director of the Pine Bluff Convention Center says when it comes to events at the venue people “should be here at least an hour before,” and adds that safety is their number one priority.

McCorvey mentioned the recent Pine Bluff shooting at Regional Park, saying security measures are in place to prevent a similar situation.  

 ​According to Pine Bluff Police, the Regional Park shooting left one dead and three others injured.

Rosemary White was also among the crowd waiting to enter the graduation. She says she understands the safety measures, but not the slow pace.

“We shouldn’t have to wait that long to get into an event,” said White. 

White says it was a blessing that she made it inside on time to see her daughter walk, but it was a close call.

“We finally got in and sat down and they were on the letter E. Well, thank God my daughter’s last name starts with an H.”

The Watson Chapel School district did release a statement from Superintendent Andrew Curry on their Facebook page apologizing for what happened.

“The district wanted all families and friends of our graduates to see their students walk across the stage and collect their diplomas. Because of these delays, that didn’t happen for everyone, and we apologize.”

White says, “you can’t get that moment back no matter how many times you apologize.”

The district says the graduation ceremony was recorded and will be posted online on May 20, 2022.