BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WSAV) – Over 100 high school seniors and their parents gathered in Beaufort County to silently protest their upcoming virtual graduation ceremonies.
Right now, Beaufort County is one of only five districts in South Carolina not having in-person graduation ceremonies, and some students and parents are upset.
“I’m graduating two years early, I’m 16 and it feels like the hard work that I put in really was wasted,” Beaufort County High School senior Rachelle Martz said. “I’ve been working for this moment for as long as I can remember.”
WSAV News 3 reached out to the district’s superintendent, and he said he was open to possibly hosting something for the senior class in August. Students, however, say their college plans won’t make it possible for most of their classmates to attend.
“These kids left school on a Friday in March, never knowing that they wouldn’t be back together again and so I just feel that we need to make a way, they need closure to move onto the next step of their lives,” protesters Jamie, Skylar and Liz Bodie said. “They need to see their classmates, they need to see their teachers and we can do it, and we can do it safely.”
Seniors like Heather Butler say they have been petitioning for an outdoor graduation for over a month, including an online petition that garnered over 1,000 signatures and a Facebook page that had over 900 followers in just 10 days.
“We can bring awareness that one, we can social distance properly, and two, that if they set out rules for graduation that we can follow them and actually have an in person graduation that’s outdoors, that’s actually safer than an indoor graduation they currently want us to have,” Butler said.
News 3’s Andrew Davis spoke with Butler ahead of Saturday’s protest. Read more here.
Dozens of seniors lined up, six feet apart, and marched through Waterfront Park Saturday. Some community members even clapped as the students marched by, outfitted in their caps and gowns.
“When did eating out become more important than a high school graduation?” the Bodie family said. “Ninety percent of the state is already doing exactly this, but we’re supposed to have a very cold taping, ten people at a time, it just didn’t sit well.”
Students say they want the school district to hear their plea and change the upcoming virtual ceremony to an outdoor graduation in June.
“So many are going off to the military or starting a professional job and starting college, and so just pushing it off doesn’t seem to be a feasible option,” the Bodie family said. “You can’t get closure two months down the road.”
WSAV’s Jessica Coombs will have more tonight on News 3 at 6.