A Philadelphia high school graduate who was allegedly denied her diploma because she momentarily danced across the stage at the commencement ceremony, causing the audience to laugh, is speaking out about the incident.
A now-viral video shows Hafsah Abdul-Rahman, a member of the 2023 senior class of Philadelphia High School for Girls, getting ready for her name to be called during last Friday’s graduation ceremony. When it was, she crossed the stage toward the school’s headmaster while briefly breaking into a dance.
When Lisa Mesi, the school’s principal, arrived on the other side of the stage, she withheld the diploma and told Abdul-Rahman to take a seat.
According to Abdul-Rahman, “I was humiliated,” he told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
According to The Inquirer, school authorities had previously instructed kids to let their families know that there wouldn’t be any applause or cheering for specific students when their names were called. However, Abdul-Rahman told the newspaper that an assistant principal had instructed the girls right before the event that they might walk stylishly if they so desired.
Abdul-Rahman claimed Mesi told her she “made the crowd chuckle” and wouldn’t be awarded her diploma after she briefly danced up to the principal when her name was called.
The woman who posted the original video of the incident on Instagram, Abdul-Rahman’s grandmother, stated that the graduates and attendants had been instructed not to make any noise.
“Everyone respected that,” she wrote. “But if [they] didn’t how can you punish these young girls for something in the audience did??”
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In a retweeted video of the ceremony that went viral on Twitter, many viewers were outraged by the principal’s behavior.
This young woman, Hafsah Abdur-Rahman, was denied her high school diploma for dancing on stage. Philadelphia High School for Girls should be ashamed of themselves. They humiliated this young woman. For NOTHING. pic.twitter.com/x60EaIgEmI
— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) June 16, 2023
“I can’t even make sense of this, she’s excited and she should be,” another commented. “She did nothing wrong. I don’t understand this world today.”
Others, meanwhile, fully supported the school, claiming the student “knew the rules” and flaunted them anyway.
“Lots of schools do this, and have done it for years!” one viewer wrote. “You have a short time to do the ceremony, and if there was a celebration after each child, you would be there all day. You can’t read the next name if there is [noise]. We have to stop making excuses for our kids.”
At the ceremony on June 9, diplomas weren’t just withheld from students like Abdul-Rahman. Videos posted on social media seem to show at least two additional students who allegedly had their degrees taken away after waving and momentarily pointing an index finger in the air.
Here is the official video:
Here’s another high school graduate whose moment was marred by the same principal who withheld Hafsah Abdur-Rahman’s diploma. pic.twitter.com/IuhnzO8SNJ
— David Heath (@davidhth) June 17, 2023
Since then, the Philadelphia School District, to which Girls’ High belongs, has voiced its dissatisfaction with the steps taken by the school administration.
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“The District does not condone the withholding of earned diplomas based on family members cheering for their graduates,” a spokesperson wrote in a statement shared with McClatchy News. “We apologize to all the families and graduates who were impacted and are further looking into this matter to avoid it happening in the future.”
There was no one accessible right away to comment further for Nexstar from the Philadelphia High School for Girls.
According to a spokeswoman for the school district, Abdul-Rahman and the other females ultimately earned their degrees following the ceremony. But it just wasn’t the same for her.
“You only get one moment like that,” she told the Inquirer, “and it was taken away from me.”
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