Updated: Western High denied graduates without acceptances to four-year-colleges a walk across the stage
For as long as anyone can remember, Western High School has had a longstanding practice of preventing students from walking across the stage at graduation if they didn't prove acceptance at a four-year-college or university--even if they didn't want to attend one.
This little-known fact was brought to light amid recent controversies at the school surrounding senior pranks that had gone too far, prompting Western's Principal Alisha Trusty to cancel two senior events.
The school system said that the practice was not common in the district, and that the city's other flagship, college prep schools--City, Poly, Dunbar--did not have such a rule. School officials said it was a school-level decision, and a longstanding tradition that dated back decades. Trusty will discuss with the Western High community in the coming weeks whether it should continue.
Trusty said she would not be enforcing the rule this year, though we featured a student in a story today who had to scurry for an acceptance letter by May 1 after she was told the one she received from Anne Arundel Community College wasn't good enough for her to walk across the stage.
The student, Gaetana Vitali and her father, Sal, spoke extensively about the experience yesterday.
"If you work hard for four years, you have that right," Sal Vitali said. "Even if you go to summer school, you still get to walk across the stage. But, not at Western.”
He said he was proud of his daughter's acceptance to AACC to study pre-vet science. He said that for many students, community college is the best option. “Right now, with the state of the economy and the changing standards of colleges, it makes it that much harder.”
Update: Sources have provided me with all of the requirements for students to participate in graduation, which apparently are listed in a handbook given to students at the beginning of the year. (I looked for this in an online handbook and couldn't find it on Monday night). See below:
Eligibility for Participation
In order to participate in the Western High School graduation ceremony, a student must:
• have a minimum 70 cumulative academic average (the cumulative GPA is not rounded; a 69.99 GPA is not acceptable for participation in commencement exercises)
• have a minimum 94% attendance record for each school year
• meet the Maryland State Department of Education graduation requirements
• take a college admittance standardized test, either SAT I or ACT
• apply and show evidence of acceptance to at least one 4-year college or university prior to May 1st of her senior year
Our editorial board weighed in today on Western's policy, which Sal Vitale said he was informed had been around for at least 15 years.