Students protest for their principal -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Students protest for their principal

May 20, 2004

Fitzgerald-- More that 138 graduating seniors have signed a petition calling on the Ben Hill County School Board to allow their principal to attend their graduation.

The board said David Mims won't be allowed to preside over this year's ceremony because of his involvement in an internal investigation. Students say they're being shortchanged, and they don't want anyone but Mims to hand them their diplomas.

Graduating senior and student body president Gene Mitchell says he's outraged at the Ben Hill School Board's decision to bar Principal David Mims from attending Saturday's graduation.

"I feel that my principal, that has been with me since ninth grade, should now be allowed to go to my graduation. We want him there," says Mitchell.

But Mims has recently been in hot water after it was discovered that two of his degrees came from a non-accredited online school. Soon after that, the local chapter of the NAACP accused him of mistreating black students.

"I think that principal Mims can no longer be effective at Fitzgerald High School, not only because the of the situation with the certification, but also the other disciplinary problems he has had at this high school," says Rev. James Davis president of the Ben Hill Chapter of the NAACP.

The school board would not confirm that either issue was the reason for their decision to keep Mims away from graduation. The superintendent said the decision was made weeks ago, and the board is awaiting the result of the State's Professional Standards Commission's investigation into Mim's advanced degree.

But Mitchell says he's decided to take action.

"What I have done is I've went out to the community and business leaders, and I have asked them to support the seniors by signing a petition to get Mr. Mims back in graduation," says Mitchell.

"I signed the petition because Mr. Mims has been our principal since we have been here. Just because he has had one bad incident doesn't mean we should just give up on it," says Ginger Griffin another graduating student.

 More than 300 people and most of the graduating class has signed the petition. But only time will tell if the last minute push will be enough to get these student what they want.

Mitchell submitted the petition to the school board this morning. The board says it will consider the petition and could have an answer as soon as Friday.

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