Residents in Washington, D.C. are still baffled over how every single student at Ballou High School got their diploma, despite many of them not even showing up to class.
It wasn't just one school. Students across the city graduated despite having missed more than 30 days of school in a single course, findings from the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent investigation found. The investigation is still ongoing, but parents' demand for answers prompted city officials to share some initial findings.
The citywide audit came after an initial investigation by WAMU and NPR at Ballou, in which they discovered a high rate of unexcused absences.
An investigation by WAMU and NPR has found that Ballou High School's administration graduated dozens of students despite high rates of unexcused absences. We reviewed hundreds of pages of Ballou's attendance records, class rosters and emails after a district employee shared the private documents. Half of the graduates missed more than three months of school last year, unexcused. One in five students was absent more than present — missing more than 90 days of school.
To add insult to injury, the majority of Ballou’s 2017 graduates missed more than six weeks of school. One teacher recalls seeing kids in the 12th grade that couldn't read and write.
How did this happen? Personal responsibility is certainly part of it, but administrative neglect was also a factor. As NPR explains, teachers who voiced their opposition to how things were being run were threatened with poor teacher evaluations.
"It's oppressive to the kids because you're giving them a false sense of success," one anonymous teacher at Ballou told NPR.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser tried to answer those questions at a press conference Tuesday.
“Our biggest responsibility is knowing that showing up half the time doesn’t work anywhere in life,” she said. "The huge investments we have made in our schools only work if students are sitting in the seats."
She is “not happy” knowing that the D.C. school system has problems that weren’t communicated.
Following the superintendents’ review, it’s "clear" they need to go more in depth at other schools.
"I’ll hold the chancellor accountable," she promised.
They are also taking steps to shake up the school's faculty. Ballou Principal Yetunde Reeves has been placed on administrative leave following the scandal and the city is working on finding a replacement.
Local viewers were skeptical and blasted the school system and D.C. leadership in the comment section.
“Dr. Reeves should be prosecuted,” one commenter said.
“Revoke every diploma of every student who failed to meet grad requirements,” another wrote. “Otherwise this is a cruel joke that will have a lasting impact on every DCPS graduate.”
Others promoted homeschooling.
Results from the district-wide investigation are due by the end of January.