NEW ORLEANS —
Tayler McClendon celebrated with family and friends when she proudly crossed the John F. Kennedy High School graduation stage this spring.
“She was excited with her cap and gown,” said Darnette Daniel’s, Tayler’s mom. “It was beautiful.”
That all was taken away. Instead of a diploma, Tayler and many other students were given a piece of paper that said they would be given their diplomas at a different date. That date never came.
Now, Daniels is suing the Orleans Parish School Board and the state on behalf of her daughter. She's being represented by attorney Suzette Bagneris of the Bagneris Firm.
“I think it’s gross mismanagement all the way around,” said Bagneris. “It’s a lack of oversight and lack of supervision.”
Bagneris is hoping for class-action status involving all the students who she said were wrongfully denied their diplomas.
Eyewitnesses News first broke the story about grade fixing at Kennedy High School earlier this year. That's when Runell King, a former data director, said he was wrongfully fired for alerting leaders that employees were changing grades to increase the graduation rate and improve the school's overall performance score.
Daniels said her daughter couldn’t graduate because the online classes she took, in a program called GradPoint, were not supervised by certified teachers on campus. Daniels said the school told her the courses could be taken at home when they were actually supposed to be conducted at school under teacher supervision.
“So many of these kids are not getting their diplomas, not because of grade fixing. It’s because of GradPoint.”
At least 87 members of the 177-student senior class at Kennedy were ineligible to graduate for reasons ranging from inflated grades to excessive absences to GradPoint issues.
“There are different categories of these kids,” said Bagneris. The categories include students who were told they could not graduate because of excessive absences. In that regard, who should be notifying these parents these kids are not showing up for school and they are in danger of not graduating? Then you have a group of kids that trusted the school’s teachers to administer the GradPoint program properly. That’s the group my client Tayler falls under,” said Bagneris.
69 of those took part in graduation, according to The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate.
“I am going to fight for my child. Even if this is fighting for everyone else’s child. I am going to fight for mine, ”said Daniels.
Listed at defendants are the State of Louisiana, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Orleans Parish School Board, New Beginnings Schools Foundation and TenSquare, a group hired by New Beginnings to manage the network.
WWL-TV reached out to all named four defendants Monday. No one issued a comment Monday night.