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Boardman parents outraged after doors to commencement close early

Published: Tue, June 4, 2013 @ 12:05 a.m.

By Josh stipanovich



Brian Bragg was one of several disgruntled parents and family members trying to get into Boardman High School just before 2 p.m. Sunday for its commencement ceremony.

Bragg arrived at the high school at 1:30 p.m. and waited outside for his son’s girlfriend. When they made their way to the school’s doors about 10 minutes later, police already were shutting them, he said. They told him nobody else was getting in.

Police “wouldn’t respond to anybody,” he said.

Bragg pleaded to police, and after he realized his chances at getting in were slim, he looked for anyone he knew that would let him in.

He was unsuccessful.

His son, Sebastian Bragg, received his diploma Sunday. But Brian Bragg and several other parents — who arrived about the same time — were forced to watch the ceremony on a 10-by-10-foot screen in the school’s auditorium, he said.

“It’s not even the same. You couldn’t tell who anyone was,” he said. “Words don’t explain it.”

Lisondra Mendez was there with several family members, in hopes of watching her daughter, Yahsminn Santiago, receive her diploma.

When they arrived at 1:42 p.m., the doors already were locked, she said. Mendez said police told her there was nothing they could do.

Mendez called her daughter when she found out she wasn’t going to be able to get into the gymnasium. At 2:01 p.m., after the ceremony began, Santiago came looking for her mother and family outside.

Santiago wanted police to see her, Mendez said, in hopes that they would let them inside. When that failed, they all were barred from getting into the gymnasium, Mendez said.

“My daughter was bawling,” Mendez said.

Santiago was told she couldn’t walk the stage. Instead, she received her diploma after the ceremony ended.

“The Boardman police had no right to lock those doors,” Mendez said. “There’s nothing they can do to make this right.”

Tim Saxton, the school’s principal, sent letters to each of the parents before to the commencement, he said. In it, parents were told the doors wouldn’t be closed until 2 p.m.

“I go above and beyond to communicate that,” Saxton said. “It’s not a good thing, obviously, because everything we had published and sent out and communicated was 2 p.m. ... The doors should not have been shut at 1:45 p.m. Two o’clock is what I promised the people, and I feel terrible about that.”

Sgt. Rick Balog was at the commencement and said the doors are shut at 1:45 p.m. every year for setup purposes.

“There was a miscommunication of when the doors get locked and what was written on the ticket,” Balog said.

Jack Nichols, Boardman police chief, said police did exactly what’s been done in the past. Nichols was told to be ready for complaints, but he said that as of Monday afternoon, none had come in.

Mendez said she wishes police would have reached out to parents before the doors were locked.

“These kids are never going to get this back,” Mendez said.

Saxton said he has talked to every parent who called or came to the school Monday.

Bragg and Mendez visited Saxton on Monday morning and said Saxton apologized and explained that several tickets still were available when the doors closed at 1:45 p.m. Mendez also met with Saxton, who, she said, was “very apologetic.”

“We’re going to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future,” Saxton said. “We’re going to make sure we have a lot more communication lines, how it’s going to work.”


1tdclac69(14 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Wow- those officers took away from those family members a moment that will never ever be repeated !!! I have the upmost respect for officers of the law but this incident should have never happened- very sad! My heart goes out to those family members and to the graduates!

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2Doctore(52 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Has it occurred to anyone that the Officers were acting on guidance from someone? What reason would they have for deciding to close the doors at a given time on their own? Maybe someone should seek out answers, correction, factual answers, before running to the media and blaming the PD. A miscommunication has already been acknowledged, and if that is what has been done every year in the past, I think someone got their wires crossed.

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3grazor50(104 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

What should be a surprise, it is just another example of government control with NO common sense involved.
No one knows why something is done, doors closed at 1:45 because it used to be that way,, common sense would play a factor that parents of students want to attend their graduation and the police could have accommodated even if it meant for them to assist in the seating,, but NO, they do as they feel and tough luck! The police motto : serve and protect is lost, CONTROL is the new system and the idea that WE the taxpayer pay their salaries has NO meaning. INSTEAD of police working to be controllers, try being a citizen first and work with the public and maybe police and citizen relationship will increase instead of the animosity that currently plays a factor

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4Pyroc(138 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Sounds like less of a "Security" issue and more of a "Convenience" issue for the Cops. The sooner they locked the doors, the sooner they could get to the coffee and donuts.

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5taxme(361 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

maybe they were keeping some of those disrepectfull parents out that don't listen to the principle to be quiet until everyone gets their diploma's!

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6islandgrump(59 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Its sad, but when we enforce the laws to the letter of the law instead of the spirit of the law. No one will benifit. So very, very sad.

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7steelwagon(284 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

What the hell has happened to common sense and decency ?
Why couldn't one of those officers haved checked the parents' i.d. an escorted them inside to see their kids graduate ?

This our way or no way or go directly to jail for questioning us policy is the reason people fear the cops,don't trust the cops and usually won't co-operate or help the cops.

The only time the cops are civil and decent to the average citizen is when they need a levy passed.
The rest of the time they're policy is 'us against them"

There was no reason these folks shouldn't have be able to see their children graduate.
They missed a once in a lifetime event and there's nothing right about that.

While I understand security measures are necessary these days the police can still use common sense and be civil to the people who pay them.

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8Old_School(39 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

I said this on last night's thread: I was in the gym at 1:25 PM to watch my son graduate. By 1:40 every seat in the gym was full. Every seat! How do you let people into a place that is already full?

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9DwightK(1537 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

I guess the Boardman police figure they've passed all the levy's they'll ever need. It must be nice to be so confident in your funding that you can treat residents so badly.

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10dmacker(541 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Although unfortunate, why would any parent seeking to attend his graduates ceremony wait until the very last minutes to arrive.
For something this important to them it seems they could have arrived early to assure themselves a seat.
Last minute arrivals are always somewhat disruptive to any event.
However, there may have been some extenuating circumstances that should probably have been considered by the authorities.

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11walter_sobchak(2727 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

No compelling reason has been put forth to close and LOCK the doors in the first place. If limited seating, then use the stadium or a larger venue. Disruptive? C'mon, man! It is a stinking high school graduation; it's not like the president or the pope was attending. So, if at 2:20, I have to go to the restroom, would I be able to get through the locked doors? Boardman PD should remove the softballs under their arms and show some decency.

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12InterestedObserver(3 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Something about this story isn't right. If the other commenters are correct, the gymnasium was full, there were no seats. Which indicates either folks without tickets had been allowed in or that somehow folks hoped to use their tickets twice to allow extra folks to come in. If that is the case, shame on those who took more seats than they had been allowed, which caused other families not to see their child graduate.

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13jdforsythe(2 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

They act like this is a new scenario. The same thing happened at the 2006 commencement and I was made to sit in the auditorium with MANY other people who were locked out of the ceremony. The police weren't just being dumb, they were incredibly rude to parents who just wanted to see their kids graduate. Later we got an explanation from the Principal that there aren't enough seats. I thought that was the point of tickets. You only give out as many tickets as you have seats, and people without tickets don't go. You then don't have to lock any doors you just check tickets. It seems like they haven't learned anything in 7 years. Obviously the venue isn't large enough but nobody seems to care.

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14republicanRick(1736 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Sure sounds like an easily fixable problem.

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15oakiedoky(6 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

If the problem lies with a seating issue, and you are forced to exclude parents from attending their child's commencement and this has been a past issue, why not do the ceremony on the football field or at another venue? That is where our commencement was. Our auditorium was too small to hold the family members of our graduating class so it was held at the 50 yard line. Common sense is not so common anymore. What a shame.

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16endthismess(464 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Folks, voters of Boardman, the BPD have decided to run Boardman Twp. like a total police state. They are always right, no matter what. Citizens have no basic rights. This calcified, cantankerous, "I'll teach you a lesson" attitude has been silently going on for quite sometime and evolves right out of the Market St headquarters (which we citizens pay for). If their hateful mean attitudes and asses get any more hard, I wonder just who will be able to meet the metal aptitude and physical requirements for the job. The taxpayer can give and... the taxpayer can take away..... too. Remember this when it comes time to vote for what they want from us taxpaying citizens. Being hateful will never help any cause.

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17kensgirl(1063 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Common sense says get a larger venue. So sorry for the parents and children left out in the cold. Common sense isn't so common.

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18harleydog(243 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

The ceremony started at 2pm sharp. There is no reason why a parent should be walking in the door at that time. I got there at 12:30 and the gym was already starting to fill up. The parents that waited till 1: 45 to show up just proves that they are idiots. I bet if they were going to a movie or ballgame they would be there a lot earlier than movie time or game time. Stop crying about it , you were warned in advance that the ceromony starte at 2. Thats when the graduates were starting to enter the gym. And the famiies that clapped after they were given instructions not to, you embarrased your self and your kd and you took away from the ceromony. You should have been thrown out.

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19bubba1214(1 comment)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

My parents have always instilled in me that it is always better to be early to events. Do you think maybe they closed the doors @ 1:45 because they need to get everything underway and in order in which to start the graduation? I have been in that auditorium for a graduation in the past and let me tell you for Boardman to have such large classes you need to keep order in that room. As someone has suggested maybe they should have it in their stadium, but then again you would still have those late comers. Shame on the people blaming the police dept. they are only there doing their job and the job they are hired to do. Do you know how hard it would be to try and find the administration minutes before Commencement? The best thing to do as I stated in the beginning arrive early and you wouldn't have this problem.

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20DwightK(1537 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

There will be another levy next year to build a bigger auditorium.

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21Lmendez1976(5 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

I'm not going to continue to beat a dead horse to the one that said they probably never show up for any events in past 13 yrs shame on you I as a divorcee raised my children on my own I NEVER EVER missed Amy game....practice or event..... I was the mom running out of work to get to cheerleading ...basketball.....football....track practice and games anyone who knows me can attest to that ....Furthermore I can't understand what is so hard for some ppl to comprehend this was not a punctuality it was an oversold issue....doesnt matter what time you got there because there was never enough room....had we arrived at 115 doors would have closed at 130 on other folks no one showed up at two or even150 for that matter so stop justifying BPD.....Mr Saxon himself stated they hsf no authority.....for goof that stated they must have been alerted of something ....yeah prob the fire Marshall .....there was nothing going on to be alerted off so get over your excuses.....And so you all know BPD repeatedly said they were contacting administration that was at 145 they never did .this per Mr Saxon himself. Not to mention the smirks coming from the tiny curly dark hair female ogficer that seem to be completely amused ......Pleeeeeeaaase spare me...they showed a true lack of humility As much SD I respect police officers I lost complete respect for BPD......they never even offered an apology to anyone but plenty of excuses.....that kind of false pride is digusting

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22lumper(301 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

unless your kid is an idiot, high school graduation nowadays is way over rated. it is the law kids have to attend school and have no other real options ( working for a good wage ) if they quit at 16 or 17 yrs old.

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23lumper(301 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

i know !!!! pull your remaining fat, pimple faced losers out and send them to youngstown city schools. no problems getting in at those graduation ceremonies. and don't bring your gun in - leave it in the car, which you can park anywhere you want.

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24Lmendez1976(5 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

I am laughing so hard right now because each negative comment sounds more and more ridiculous....you just admitted this happens every year well I would not know that since this was my first time attending .Sounds to me more of a reason to have a larger facility
According to the principal this has never occurred before where the doors closed early butaybe you ate calling him a liar....
...surely he would not want to misinterpret his school and make it look bad.....duhhhhh
For the person who said education and graduation is over rated I won't even comment on that That by far was the most ridiculous uneducated statement I have ever heard and its not only insane but completely irrelevant .I am just going to get off this page because I feel my brain cells starting to disintagrate at such lack of intelligence I have been highly entertained however.... Thank you

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25grazor50(104 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Wait a minute, so to speak. Those that state that the late comers should not have gotten a seat, and got their earlier.
If the letter from Saxton (man in charge) states the doors will be open until 2pm. The guy at 1:59 with a ticket is absolutely not later than the guy that was there at 1:00 for the commencement. As was stated, if TICKETS were more plentiful than seats, then it is a school problem, but it was stated in the VINDY article,, the doors were closed at 1:45 because that was what BPD always did in the past,, poor excuse, as I stated earlier,, even at that,, the BPD could have explained that the seating was all taken, instead they held their steadfast ways:

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26OddBuckeye(3 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

I was seated on left side, top left section and there WAS extra seating.
We also aquired extra tickets that afternoon so if the gym was at "maximum capacity" how would I not only have the rest of the tickets for my family but also extra tickets from other people?
An additional fact, the very top row of bleachers on the left side was COMPLETELY empty! Like the covelli center, there are no "bad seats" in that gym since its small. So if someone had a ticket and arrived prior to 2pm, the right thing would be to admit them!

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27DSquared(1788 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Between the Teachers Union and the FOP Union, is it any wonder that this event was a cluster-f***!

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28taxme(361 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Seats were full. No room left. Get there early and this wouldn't happen. Thank you BPD for having common sense. A few poster do get it! I've been there done that. People who bring a 100 guest and so called family members should sit elsewhere. Get there early next time. High school graduation is expected.

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29dolcegirl(3 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

I don't know if the doors were technically "locked", but the very thought of this disturbs me much, much more than people not getting to see their kids graduate.

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30uptowngirl(139 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

The police should have respected the time printed on the ticket. At the very least they could have checked with Mr. Saxton regarding what to do with "no seats". The fact that tickets were required eludes to seats available for everyone with a ticket. I am sure some teachers would have given up seats for parents. After all this scenario was created by the BPD who are looking for a truck that ran over some geese. Perspective is everything. Get a grip that catching a goose killer is more important than serving the community that holds the purse strings.

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31taxme(361 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Let's see common sense! You cannot lock people in a public place so that never happened. The doors closed they wern't locked. Gym was full. Overflow to the auditorium. Get there early and get a seat. Late commers always are a problem. You people are making a big deal out of nothing!

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32endthismess(464 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Point is very obvious. The doors were to close at 2PM. This was directive told to all those graduating as well as those attending. The message on the start time was very clear...no matter who put it out....the message was out and known so.....the trouble started by the almighty BPD who think they are completely above the law in many instances. So BPD, this IS YOUR FAULT. THIS PROBLEM IS ON YOUR HANDS. BPD CREATED THIS WHOLE STINKING PROBLEM. Has nothing to do with how many seats were there to fill the crowd.

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33rachey2343(1 comment)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

I graduated from BHS four years ago. At our honors assembly, we were each given four tickets. There were over 400 students graduating, so that means over 1600 tickets given and the gym only holds 1600. We were told to tell our parents that when the gym fills up they cannot let anyone else in, and we were also told to tell our family to arrive early to get seats if not they will be sent to the auditorium to watch the graduation on a giant screen in the air conditioning. I was warned many times before hand that there is not enough room in the gym to fit everyone's families. I do not understand why there is such a big deal about this because the students are fully warned and told about the procedures for that day. And the girl that walked out should have known better not to leave after the ceremony had started. I cannot even express how many times we are told to be on time and to tell our parents.

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34taxme(361 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

This is actually getting funny. Obviously people were abusing the system by sneaking more than 4 people to a family in. Probably the people who think graduating high school is is a HUGE accomplishment and not expected like most families think! Then the people on here complaining probably arn't from Boardman, never went to Boardman, and just want to make a great community, BPD, and an "EXCELLENT" rated school system look bad. Got news for you. Won't work! We smart people know who you are and you make yourselves look like idiots.

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35Jacked(1 comment)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

I was there!!!! So was 50 Boardman School district employees!!!They were in charge of the event to include the doors!!!! Not BPD!!! The police are there for security purposes at the direction of THIER EMPLOYEERS!!!

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