Guidance counselor error prevents some Prince George's County students from graduating

Several Prince George's County Public Schools senior students found out days before graduation that they did not meet requirements to graduate due to an error by their guidance counselor.

A school spokesman confirmed two students from Potomac High School and one from Oxon Hill High School were impacted, but some parents and board members believe the problem is more widespread.

"I received messages from at least five different schools," said Prince George's County School Board member Edward Burroughs.

FOX 5 was contacted by one of those parents, a mother who said her daughter is fighting to graduate at Bladensburg High School after an administrative error.

Tonya Sweat, president of the PTSA at Oxon Hill High School, said she talked to five parents before graduation who had learned their student did not qualify.

"One of them actually heard from [the school] the day of," said Sweat. "She got called early that morning to say her child wasn't going to graduate and I was like, 'That's a little bit shocking.'"

Prince George's County Public Schools spokesperson John White said he is not aware of any additional cases beyond the three.

Isaiah Strattonbey is one of the seniors impacted.

"I actually cried about it," Strattonbey said. "I don't even have words to explain how I feel right now."

His father, Shercohn Evans, said his son's guidance counselor at Potomac High School called him a week ago and asked him to come in. She told him Strattonbey was never enrolled in a class he needed to graduate.

"I went there and sat in her office," said Evans. "She tells me, 'I'm sorry, it's a mistake I made. He's not going to be able to walk that stage until he goes to summer school.'"

Last year, a state audit found a number of students graduating in Prince George's County without meeting state requirements. There was even evidence of records tampering. As a result, the school system put new policies in place and is now preparing for a second state audit that will begin this summer.

"Since the state audit of our grading and graduation validations processes, staff members have been working vigilantly to ensure all graduates have met local and state requirements," said White in an email.

Burroughs said he thinks the situation has been handled badly and the students should have been allowed to walk at graduation.

"When we were talking last year, it was mostly about students who were truant or who were not doing their work and they were still graduating in spite of not having put forth effort," he said. "In this case, we are talking about students that have done every single thing that we have asked them to do."

Instead of graduation memories, Strattonbey said what he will always remember is that he lost the chance to graduate with his friends.

"I was like, 'I'm not there to be with them. What is this? This hurts a lot,'" he said.

"Even after they graduate, when they see their high school diploma, they are going to remember, 'I had to spend an extra 20 days in summer school because of an adult who was supposed to take care of my needs," said Evans. "Doesn't make sense."

The schools will cover the cost of enrolling students in summer school so they can complete their graduation requirements.