Amite 'Student of Year' says school failed him
AMITE, LA (WVUE) - He was the top of his class at Amite High School, but was stunned to learn at graduation Wednesday night that he wouldn't be able to take the stage. He and his family are angry, but the schools superintendent said the rules regarding facial hair stand.
Andrew Jones never made anything less than an "A" his entire four years at Amite High School.
"He's got a child, he's got a baby and he's still managed those grades," said his aunt, Sabrina Davis.
He also excelled in all sports, and landed a college scholarship.
"Gonna play football at Southeastern," said Jones.
Jones proudly donned his cap and gown Wednesday night and headed to a the SLU assembly center to take his spot on the stage. The program even had his name on it as Student of the Year. But school officials took his cap and gown away from him and barred him from the stage. Jones and a group of students were told they had to shave first. Jones shaved the sides, but chose not to shave his goatee.
"They told us before graduation, but I seen other schools, with 'em and they still graduated," Jones said.
For Jones, the graduation night rules were especially confusing since he said no one made an issue of his facial hair during the entire regular school year.
"I went all four years with it," Jones said.
The Amite High School principal declined our request for an interview. Tangipahoa Schools Superintendent Mark Kolwe told us that he couldn't answer for what school administrators did previously. He did say that the Tangipahoa Parish School System has a policy that male students should be clean-shaven, and he said that Jones was denied the stage after he personally tried to get him to shave.
"I feel they should have let me march," Jones said. "The hair on my face has nothing to do with school. I wasn't distracting anybody."
Others who did shave were allowed to participate.
"They need to check themselves, poor administration," said Jones' mother, Julie Ricard.
The local NAACP is looking into the matter.
"His robe and cap were taken so he could not march, and that's just wrong," said Tangipahoa parish NAACP chapter president Patricia Morris.
Andrew Jones will never have another high school graduation.
"It's something I can't get back," he said.
But he stands by his decision.
School Board member Betty Robinson said this is part of the culture of some students in the system. She said she is going to investigate whether any board policies were violated in this incident.
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