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School’s graduation postponed after only 5 of 33 students were eligible

Twenty-eight of Marlin High School’s seniors didn’t meet requirements to graduate from high school in Texas

Marlin Independent School District Superintendent Darryl Henson speaks at a meeting Wednesday. (KWTX News 10/Screenshot)
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Graduation was less than a week away, so Marlin Independent School District Superintendent Darryl Henson began looking through seniors’ files last week to confirm they could receive their diplomas.

Students at the only high school in the Texas district needed to have passed all of their courses and attended 90 percent of their classes throughout all eight semesters. But as he finished reviewing grades and attendance numbers Sunday, Henson came to a startling realization.

Twenty-eight of Marlin High School’s 33 seniors were ineligible to graduate.

While seniors were scheduled to graduate in late May in the auditorium, the school instead postponed the ceremony to an undecided date in June. Henson said seniors are making up assignments and spending extra time in classes to become eligible.

“The state of Texas has guidelines for graduation,” Henson told parents and students at a meeting Wednesday. “This is not a dance floor. … It’s not a homecoming pep rally. This is graduation.”

Henson told The Washington Post that 24 students can now graduate after they made up time and assignments. Since he became the Marlin Independent School District’s superintendent in May 2020, Henson said, this is the first year graduation has been postponed.

“They’ve been even at school today — on the first day of summer, per se — continuing to work,” Henson said last week. “They were able to kind of refocus and just commit themselves to the work at hand.”

After completing an audit of attendance, grades and credits, Henson said he met with seniors to give them an opportunity to make up assignments. The small Marlin, Tex., school then said in a public letter that it was postponing graduation and would hold a mandatory meeting for parents.

“Everything that we have done and will continue to do for the foreseeable future will always be for the benefit of our children,” Henson said near the start of the gathering in the auditorium. “So I’d rather have the emotions now; I’d rather have everyone be upset now instead of us calling you back here in October, in November, and January of ’24, and telling you that your diploma is not worth the paper that it’s printed on.”

Parents and students complained that administrators didn’t communicate what the graduation requirements were, didn’t respond to questions in emails and provided late notice about students’ ineligibility.

But administrators said they provided students with graduation plans at the start of the school year and called and arranged meetings with parents to inform them whether their children were on track to graduate. Still, Henson apologized and said he will monitor graduation plans sooner and more closely in the future.

“We are putting things in place to make sure that my eyes are directly on it in July and August,” before the first day of senior year, Henson said. “I’m sorry, and there’s no excuse.”

One senior told KWTX that he was informed he couldn’t graduate. He said he had to complete a test for a U.S. history class that isn’t available until the summer.

“It’s a bag of emotions, anxiety and a bit of disappointment,” he told the news station.

To meet the attendance requirements, students have participated in classes for the amount of hours they missed during the semester, Henson said. The district is shifting to a four-day week next school year in hopes that students will be more engaged.

Instead of holding a small graduation ceremony in May, Henson said he wanted seniors to have an opportunity to graduate all together in the auditorium.

“It will happen sooner rather than later,” Henson told The Post. “We really want to make sure that we … celebrate the accomplishments that they have made over the past 13 years of schooling.”