A South Carolina high school student arrived late for his graduation. He was met by a locked gate and was turned away by a sheriff's deputy.
A photo captured the moment when a Wade Hampton High School student looks into the June 2 ceremony from beyond the bars of a gate while a deputy with the Hampton County Sheriffs Office turns his head away.
The picture was shared online. In less than a week, the image has gone viral, sparking a debate about the incident.
▪ Was the sheriff's deputy wrong for preventing the student from participating in his high school graduation?
▪ Did the student get what was coming to him for failing to follow instructions and arriving "over an hour late?"
▪ Should a special exception have been made for this student, who was running late reportedly because his mother's car broke down on the way to the school?
One group that has no issue with how the incident was handled at the Wade Hampton High School located in the Lowcounty, not the one in the Upstate, is the sheriff's office. It posted a response to criticism on its Facebook page.
"The Hampton County Sheriffs Office would like to clarify the details surrounding the incident that occurred earlier today at the WHHS graduation ceremony. All graduating students were advised prior to graduation to report to the campus at 8 a.m. this morning.
"Unfortunately, a student arrived over an hour late. It was the decision of the WHHS Administration, to not allow that student to participate in the ceremony. The HCSO was instructed by the WHHS Administration to not allow the student in."
The sheriff's office closed its post by directing anyone with "concerns or questions," or complaints and criticism, to contact the Wade Hampton Administration Office or the offices of the Hampton County School District.
On the school's Facebook page, someone made a suggestion to celebrate the student in another ceremony.
"I'm just brainstorming here.... I'm thinking we could have a graduation ceremony on the football field as normal, followed by a tailgate style Graduation party for him and the community!"
Several people have commented on Facebook.
One woman wrote, "Shame on you for not letting that poor 17 year old walk with his class because of something completely out of his control! Be ware you have gone viral and not for a good reason!!"
Another person echoed that comment, writing "I read they locked a child out from his own graduation because he had car troubles... what are you teaching these children smh."
Reaction on the sheriff's Facebook post was more mixed, but just as passionate.
One man posted "Told to be there at 8, shows up after 9. So what's the problem? Consider it a life lesson and learn from it. Would you show up to your job over an hour late and expect no consequences?"
Another man sought to place blame, writing "Our attention needs to be directed to the parents of the young man. They should have made sure he made it there on time."
A different man took a different perspective on the issue in his post which read "Everybody talking about this prepares him not to be late in the future so everyone on here gone act like they’ve always been on time for their job? I don’t care if he’s still going to receive his diploma in the mail you don’t know what situation this guy had or conflict he had with his parents or anything. He waited for this big moment and y’all aren’t going to allow him in to walk the stage. There’s no excuses period an exception should have been made! No excuses!"
A woman on the feed offered her solution, had she been in the student's shoes, writing "I would’ve hopped the fence."