DINWIDDIE, VA (WWBT) – An apology Friday afternoon from Dinwiddie County Public Schools for what it calls "a good plan gone wrong."
During the district's high school graduation Thursday evening hundreds of guests, including some parents, were turned away. The fire marshal closed the doors -- not allowing additional guests inside once the venue reached capacity. That meant some family members didn't get to see their loved ones walk across the stage.
Most parents can't wait to see their children graduate from school, including Pattie Malone. Her son, DJ, graduated from Dinwiddie High on Thursday. An event she showed up for two hours in advance.
"I showed up early to make sure we had seats because you know there were a lot of kids, a lot of parents and they're inviting people so you know you got to get there early to get a seat," said Malone.
Malone says she's lucky. Some two hundred guests who arrived a little later were turned away.
"We saw a large number of spectators come. Larger than we anticipated," said Superintendent of Schools, David Clark.
When all three thousand seats were filled inside the gym at Virginia State University the doors were closed.
"The individuals at VA State, including the fire marshal, felt like capacity had been reached and stopped allowing individuals to come in," said Clark.
School leaders say they thought the venue would be large enough to accommodate all family and friends of the 320 graduates. But it wasn't, and now the district says it's sorry for the "confusion and disruption."
"We do apologize for that because that's not the way we want to do business. We should have done a better job with that," said Clark.
The district says after the ceremony a brawl broke out in the parking lot between a group of young adults. Police used pepper spray to disperse the group.
"It was, after our investigation, related to an incident from several months ago. It had nothing to do with the graduation," said Barbara Pittman, principal of Dinwiddie High School.
School leaders say next year they plan on holding graduation services at its usual location which is the district's athletic field. That wasn't an option this year because the field is under construction.