The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Family fuming after diploma withheld at last minute

School officials mum on circumstances surrounding graduation denial


A Valdez family is disappointed and angry after their daughter was denied the right to march in last week's graduation ceremony just a few hours before commencement.

"You've ruined my kid's graduation," said Sheri Kay Griffith, whose 16 year-old daughter had been slated to march up the aisles of the high school gym and receive her diploma – a year early.

Griffith said family and friends from Texas came all the way to Valdez to witness her daughter Storie's graduation.

Storie Griffith, a Valdez High School junior, had petitioned the board of education late last year to graduate early. Storie said she had taken advanced placement classes her freshman year of high school, back in Vidor, Texas, and additional online classes to meet the stringent requirements needed to get permission from the board to graduate early.

Storie said she gave her high school career top priority because she wanted to enter college and get an early start on her future.

Storie and her family believed everything was on track.

"I went to the graduation rehearsal," she said, happy to be achieving her goal.

The Griffiths claim that ended at about 11 a.m. a week ago Tuesday

"I went home and they called me on my cell phone," she said.

The high school councilor, James Williams, told her she was failing her English IV class and could not graduate.

Mrs. Griffith says an immediate series of conference calls ensued – that did not solve the issue.

Storie says the computer issued to her by Valdez City Schools was faulty and her mom says the school would not exchange the malfunctioning machine.

"They refused to get her a new computer," Mrs. Griffith said.

Storie said files would disappear from the machine.

"Periodically, all my stuff would get deleted out of it," she said.

The term paper in question could not be posted online properly with the computer according to Storie, so she printed a hard copy of it and turned it into her teacher, Mrs. Kimberlin.

Grades for the paper were to be posted May 14, but Storie's paper was missing.

The Griffiths assert that an in-depth search of Storie's computer by the school district yielded only one page of the paper in question – a controversial research paper on social media and its effects on the people and their jobs.

In short, Storie was not allowed to graduate as planned Tuesday and must repeat the class. She said it can be accomplished online and she estimates it will only take a few weeks.

VHS junior Storie Griffith was slated to graduate with the 2015 senior class.

The district's late determination that Storie was ineligible to graduate compounded the disappointment the Griffiths said.

Storie attended graduation – as a spectator – with her name on the program and she was allowed to go on the senior post-graduation cruise donated by Stan Stephens Cruises.

The district is mum on the issue, and would not verify or deny any of the Griffith's allegations.

Superintendent Jim Nygaard was disappointed the family is choosing to go public with the story, calling the decision "heavy duty."

"I really can't, with good conscience, share any details," he said in a telephonic interview Tuesday morning. "I think the ball is definitely in the young girl's court."


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