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‘She Didn’t Have to Do That’: Philadelphia High School Graduate Denied Diploma After Dancing on Stage, Says Principal ‘Stole Moment from Her’

A Philadelphia high school graduate is condemning her school principal’s decision to withhold her diploma just moments after she danced on stage during her graduation ceremony.

Hafsah Abdur-Rahman spoke to local news outlet WPVI about what played out during her graduation from The Philadelphia High School for Girls on June 9.

Hafsah Abdur-Rahman, 17, was denied her diploma during her graduation ceremony because she danced across the stage. (Photos: YouTube/WPVI)

As the 17-year-old began walking on stage after her name was called, video footage captured her doing a dance called ‘The Griddy,’ inducing laughter from the crowd. When she finally approached the principal, the principal directed Abdur-Rahman to walk back to her seat while dropping her diploma into a basket.

Abdur-Rahman did receive her diploma off-stage, but in an interview with WPVI, she said that the principal ruined the moment completely.

“She was like, ‘You’re not getting your diploma because you made the crowd chuckle.’ She stole that moment from me,” said Abdur-Rahman. “I will never get that again. It was just embarrassing. She didn’t have to do that.”

The teenager said that moment was spoiled beyond the principal’s immediate refusal to hand her the diploma. Abdur-Rahman chose to dance and celebrate to honor her sister who was killed at 14 and could not experience this milestone for herself.

Three other students were denied their diplomas during the ceremony for doing similar celebratory dances, but they received them later.

The principal warned students that their families could not cheer or clap when they walked on stage, according to Abdur-Rahman. Still, Abdur-Rahman said she felt she was unjustly penalized.

“I didn’t feel like I broke any of the rules because she didn’t say this prior to the graduation that you can’t do this walking across the stage,” Abdur-Rahman said. “She just said our families cannot cheer for us. And my family didn’t cheer.”

The response online has overwhelmingly favored Abdur-Rahman’s take on the incident, with many saying that the penalty was unnecessary and the principal policed her for merely celebrating her achievement.

“They can’t just let kids be kids anymore ?” one person posted on Twitter.

Another user wrote, “Why have graduations become this soulless walk on stage? Why have the graduation in the first place? If you’re going to police families’ cheering at a celebratory function then just mail them a .pdf at the end of the year.”

“Every graduation season, schools do this kind of nonsense. The need to police the behavior of Black and Brown people is truly compulsive,” another person commented in response to the story.

Abdur-Rahman said the assistant principal reached out to her and her family to apologize.

The teen’s mother, Jazmine Reid, defended her daughter’s actions and demanded the school change its systems and policies to ensure incidents like these don’t happen in the future.

“It’s 2023, a lot has happened. These girls went through COVID together. Our kids are not even living up to see high school,” Reid said in an interview with WPVI. “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.”

In response to the incident, the Philadelphia School District released a statement, saying, “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.

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