Emanuella Grinberg and Carma Hassan, CNN, May 11, 2015
The director of a Georgia school apologized for calling out “all the black people” who left a graduation ceremony during the valedictorian’s speech.
Nancy Gordeuk, director of TNT Academy in Stone Mountain, said “my emotions got the best of me” when she made the controversial remark. A video captured Gordeuk standing at the podium in front of a live microphone as she clearly blurts out, “Look who’s leaving, all the black people.”
The remark prompted cries from the audience as graduates stormed off the stage and the valedictorian shrank from the podium. The video spread across social media over the weekend, prompting outraged calls for Gordeuk to lose her job.
Based on her behavior, some in attendance questioned the sincerity of Gordeuk’s apology. They say she created a hostile environment long before the offending remark, one that “felt more like a roast than a graduation ceremony,” in the words of one attendee.
The TNT Academy website describes the school as a college preparatory program that provides credits for a high school diploma through independent study and teacher-assisted instruction. The website says it has been approved by the Georgia Accrediting Commission, the Chancellor’s Office of the University of Georgia and the Georgia HOPE scholarship program for non-traditional study centers.
The Georgia Accrediting Commission did not return a request for comment over the weekend.
The website describes Gordeuk as the school’s founder, saying she has more than 30 years of experience teaching in Georgia. The website says she “just completed courses” for a master’s degree in “educational leadership and supervision.”
For all intents and purposes, the ceremony had officially ended before the scene devolved into chaos. The graduates had received their diplomas, Gordeuk had dismissed the graduates, and the processional music had started, according to Gordeuk and multiple witness accounts.
Then, Gordeuk told CNN, she realized she forgot to introduce the valedictorian to the podium for his speech. She called off the music and urged the audience to stay in their seats.
As the student tried to deliver his speech, an audience member disrupted the proceedings by walking in front of the stage with an iPad, Gordeuk said. When he ignored her request to sit down, Gordeuk called on security to escort him from the floor.
But Cole and Haywood say it was Gordeuk who unnecessarily escalated the incident by being hostile to the man with the iPad.
That’s when people–including Haywood–started getting up and walking out with their families, they said.
Gordeuk apologized for her “offensive comment” in an email to CNN.
“I deeply apologize for my actions made in the emotional state of trying to let this last student finish his speech. I take a personal interest in the success of every student that comes through our doors without regard to their race, religion or ethnicity.”
— Henn Griffey Jr. (@IAMKRIS24) May 9, 2015