Hamilton High students protest to support principal

Hamilton High students protest to support principal

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Students at Hamilton High School are protesting to keep their principal after a grading scandal.

Former principal Moneka Smith was suspended in December after Shelby County Schools received reports that grades were being changed by Smith.

RELATED: SCS principal suspended, grade floors banned after grading issues at Hamilton HS

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Students stood in solidarity on Elvis Presley Blvd. around 8:30 Wednesday morning in support of Smith. The student protest appeared to be peaceful, modest in size but the issue of grade changing is enormous to Shelby County Schools because there are allegations it happened at Hamilton High School.

Hamilton Senior Class President Danyll McAdams told FOX 13 he is a little confused of the situation.

"If there was an investigation going on last year of something that happened because we don't know and we are still guessing. Why bring her into a new school year and then you pull out in the middle," McAdams said.

Hamilton has a new principal. Students complain the change in leadership caught them off guard. Students told FOX13 no one from the school district informed them or their parents.

"My momma said she got a phone call about a new principal but we didn't know who he was. The principal that we have I thought he was somebody to come in and observe a class. I didn't know he was the principal" said McAdams.

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The district hired an outside law firm to investigate the issue of grade changing at Shelby County Schools. The issue so serious Superintendent Dorsey Hopson issued a moratorium on the practice of grade flooring.

A grade floor is the lowest grade a teacher can assign a student during a single period and had been a gray area in the district's grading policy. Senior Class president Danyll McAdams said she asked about the issue of grade fixing or flooring and was never given a straight answer about that issue or why district changed principals at Hamilton.

"Even when I leave this year, when I graduate who knows how many times this is going to happen this year.  How many protests are going to happen before Hamilton High School students will be heard," McAdams told FOX13.

FOX13 has learned the Tennessee Comptroller will investigate the grade fixing scandal at Shelby County Schools as requested by the District Attorney. The DA will use that report to decide if a criminal investigation is warranted.

SCS released the following statement:

"Earlier today, students at Hamilton High organized outside of the school to voice their concerns about the recent suspension of Principal Smith. Shelby County Schools respects every student’s right to free speech and expression. However, we cannot support any actions that disrupt the important teaching and learning taking place on our campuses during the school day. We are hopeful that after meeting with school and District leaders today students have a better understanding of this situation and realize our top priority is to make sure they are supported."

The SCS school board sent FOX13 the following statement:

"We are aware of the peaceful student protest that occurred at Hamilton High School. We understand and appreciate the emotional nature of the situation and we respect rights of all of the stakeholders involved. We will continue to work with the administration in a thoughtful and transparent way to support the students at Hamilton.
Board Member Bibbs stated, 'As the Board Member that represents Hamilton High, I respect the students and their right to peacefully protest. I am aware that they had some questions and concerns today and they had an opportunity to meet with the Superintendent along with other District officials. I am committed to keeping the lines of communication open so that students, parents and community members can have access to information so that they feel included in the overall conversation about Hamilton High School.'"