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Girls’ High grad speaks out after being denied diploma on stage after dancing during ceremony

<i>WPVI</i><br/>Hafsah Abdur-Rahman is calling for change after she didn't receive her high school diploma on stage.
WPVI
Hafsah Abdur-Rahman is calling for change after she didn't receive her high school diploma on stage.

By Briana Smith

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    PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — A recent graduate from The Philadelphia High School for Girls is calling for change after she was denied her high school diploma on stage.

“She (the principal) stole that moment from me,” said Hafsah Abdur-Rahman. “I will never get that again.”

Abdur-Rahman cried tears of humiliation instead of joy at her high school graduation on June 9.

The 17-year-old from Philadelphia’s Olney section said Principal Lisa Mesi warned students their families could not cheer or clap when they walked on stage.

“I understood the rules because I was saying ‘shh’ in the video. Do not say nothing because I want my diploma,” said Abdur-Rahman. “I knew and understood what we were supposed to do.”

In the video, Abdur-Rahman can be seen dancing across the stage, and then the crowd laughed.

She said because they laughed, Mesi told her she could not receive her diploma.

“If they thought that I shouldn’t do ‘The Griddy’ across the stage and do the Girls’ High traditions, nobody should have been able to wave or blow kisses or do period signs because I feel like that’s the same thing. I feel like that’s unfair,” said Abdur-Rahman.

Abdur-Rahman said this moment wasn’t just for her, but it was in honor of her sister who was killed at 14 years old.

“I was so embarrassed. I couldn’t even enjoy the rest of the graduation,” said Abdur-Rahman.

She’s not alone.

Abdur-Rahman said three other girls did not get their diplomas on stage, but all of them did after the ceremony.

The School District of Philadelphia said in a statement quote: “The District does not condone the withholding of earned diplomas based on family members cheering for their graduates. 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.”

Abdur-Rahman said the assistant superintendent of the school also reached out to her and her mother apologizing for their experience and to talk further.

Although Abdur-Rahman wished she had a better experience, she and her mother hope school leaders learned a valuable lesson.

“It’s 2023, a lot has happened,” said her mother, Jaszmine Reid. “These girls went through COVID together. Our kids are not even living up to see high school. I understand traditions and rules are set in place for a reason, and we’re not saying they should be broken, but it might need to be revised also.”

The principal was unavailable to speak about the incident.

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