WESTFIELD, Ind. — Parents of Westfield High School students are angry after they say their children’s graduation ceremony turned into to a dangerous experience, thanks to bad weather. Now, they’re calling out school administration for how things were handled.
Weather eventually caused the ceremony to be postponed, but prior to its postponement, parents say school leadership delayed taking action, or communicating a weather evacuation plan.
“This was supposed to be their farewell from 13 years of doing good. I’m just disappointed,” said Brian Roeller.
Roeller said that students were kept out in the rain for roughly 20-30 minutes while officials decided what to do, parents were outside for longer. He says during that time, there were multiple lightning strikes in the area which only added to the danger for students, and the thousands of ceremony attendees who were sitting in bleachers.
“It’s just unfortunate. I’m very thankful that nothing bad did happen,” he said.
Parents like Beth Nickols say for rain to be falling so heavily, and lightning striking in the area, officials took too much time deciding to get children to safety.
“My kid is out there, her friends are out there, the band kids are down there playing, and nothing is being done to protect any of them,” Beth Nickols said.
“If this was a football game we would have been gone at the first strike. Instead it was well let’s try to get it in,” she added.
The Westfield High School principal, Dr. Stacy McGuire, responded to parents claims with a statement that read:
“Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate, and we had to move our commencement ceremony to the scheduled rain date – tomorrow morning at 10am. We moved graduates and attendees inside while we evaluated the situation and decided it was in the best interest of safety to cancel the event and move it to the rain date. At no point was anyone’s safety at risk and all proper safety precautions were taken to ensure everyone’s safety. We are looking forward to sunny skies tomorrow and a fabulous commencement ceremony tomorrow morning.”
Parents now say they hope the school administration will learn from their mistakes and are better prepared next year.
“There’s so many things that they need to change. So I think they need to just sit down and evaluate things and come up with a better way,” Roeller said.