Parents upset with decision to hold Shelby County Schools graduations online

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Some Shelby County parents are outraged after learning all graduations will now be virtual due to COVID-19.

Rachel Jones is upset after learning her daughter, a graduate of Southwind High School, won’t get the opportunity to walk across the stage for graduation.

“I feel that Shelby County Schools were lazy on actually getting it out there being proactive to get it done,” Jones said.

Shelby County Schools announced it will host a virtual graduation on July 18.

Jones says that’s not what she was promised.

A few months ago, the district told parents they were scheduling traditional graduation ceremonies around July 13 through the 26.

However, in the same update, the district goes on to say the back-up plan would be virtual ceremonies.

Parents like Katherine Hinson say students deserve more.

“There are ways to put chairs out on the football field, six feet apart, and let them wear their masks,” Hinson said.

The graduation falls on the same day parents have the last chance to choose whether or not they want their kids to participate in virtual or in-person learning for the next school year.

Both Jones and Hinson say their other children will be taking part in virtual instruction.

“Don’t, on one hand, say you have to have a virtual celebration because of this, but in 30 days it’s going to turn around and say you can have your kid back in our schools and entrust us,” Hinson said.

SCS superintendent Dr. Joris Ray says every decision the district makes is for the well-being of all students.

“At the end of the day, we’re going to allow science and the data to lead us,” Ray said.

SCS released a statement on the virtual graduation:

As we shared yesterday, SCS hoped conditions would have improved enough to allow in-person ceremonies in July as planned. We announced back in May that virtual graduations were our contingency plan in the case of rising COVID-19 numbers. We are now at a point where we are seeing an even higher number of COVID-19 cases in Shelby County. With the Governor’s extended state of emergency and the County remaining in Phase 2 of the Back-to-Business strategy, we believe this is the safest way to celebrate the 2020 graduates.

The District plans to make this a very special evening with broadcast options that will allow family and friends from around the country to tune in and be a part of this special occasion. On Saturday, July 18 at 5 p.m., the District-wide SCS Class of 2020 Virtual Graduation will be streamed on the SCS website,, as well as the SCS Facebook and Twitter pages. It will also be broadcast on C19TV for local Comcast subscribers. Stan Bell will host the ceremony, with remarks from Superintendent Dr. Joris M. Ray, SCS Board members, and celebrity guests. During the live broadcast, families will be directed to each school’s individual virtual graduation ceremony. The individual school ceremonies will include recognition of the 2020 graduates, a special message from the principal, speeches from the Valedictorian & Salutatorian, and the official conferring of high school diplomas. 


SCS Media Relations

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