James Madison High School has been the subject of controversy for two weeks....It began when we uncovered students and parents were mislead. They were given two letters from the school saying they had to pay a $125 Senior Celebration fee or the students would not walk in the graduation June 8th.
Shanika Rogers is a student at Madison. She says, "first I thought it was mandatory that's what it really was I thought it was mandatory but if it's not mandatory then I would like my money back."
The latest controversy? These students who walked out of school Friday afternoon must have this document signed before graduating Saturday.
That paper they're in line to get signed is a senior checkout form. Graduating seniors must get the signatures of all designated teachers and staff indicating the students have cleared up all obligations before the commencement ceremony.
The problem? Students say the line began Thursday and out of more than 400 graduates as of 2 pm Friday afternoon only 57 had been signed...They say there was a long line that snaked through the halls at Madison.
Jerrell Picket says, "yeah, I've got to get ready for graduation I've got to go to work this evening they've been doing this yesterday and they only have one person working. We got out of school yesterday they should've finished this yesterday."
Seniors say that one person signing the remaining 400 plus senior checkout sheets is the last obstacle to their final walk at Reliant.
These students say they feel like they're being held hostage and the victims of possible payback. Payback for many of them wanting their money back on that so called senior celebration fee. They say they were duped into paying it.
"I'm very disappointed because they made us pay $125 to walk across the stage and everything," says student Darrell Fields.
But here's something HISD officials did not tell us. Initially, a spokesperson said the seniors at Madison would not get a refund for the $125 senior celebration fee....Now, we're hearing this from the students.
"I heard they wanted to give $60 back...No we should be paid in full," rogers says.
In the meantime, the seniors say they would stay in the line until they get this wristband. It's needed march in their graduation...a graduation that has been marred by problems at Madison High.
Administrators at Madison High School understand how important graduation is for their students. However, there are procedures in place and specific deadlines that must be met to ensure students meet all the requirements to participate in the commencement ceremony. The final piece of the checkout process is a signature from the registrar who verifies grades based on final transcripts for compliance purposes. Unfortunately, on Thursday the campus experienced technical problems with the system which caused major delays, and many transcripts did not populate until Friday morning. The system has been repaired, and today the entire Madison counseling team and coordinators are working arduously to help expedite the checkout process. In an effort to avoid long waits, Madison administrators and staff urged all students to take care of their graduation checkout during the dates advised, rather than waiting until the last minute.