Portsmouth mom says she was locked out of start of son’s graduation

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A Portsmouth mother reached out to 10 On Your Side after she says she was forced to miss the start of her son’s graduation ceremony.

Patrice Coley is a proud parent to 17-year-old Trevor, a fresh graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School and an aspiring engineer.

Patrice arrived at the Portsmouth Pavilion shortly after 5 p.m. last Wednesday. Trevor’s graduation ceremony was set to begin at 7 p.m. Patrice’s sister was running late coming from work.

“Calls me, she says, ‘OK, we’re here we’re looking for parking and we’re having a difficult time parking.'”

Patrice left to go help her sister. Once they parked, they ran back and stopped to use the restroom. But when they went to take their seats, Patrice says she and her sister were told they had to wait.

“They said, ‘Well, we’ve got to wait for the graduates to come in.'”

The interior gates were locked. Coley says it was about 6:50 p.m. and she had no idea that was going to happen.

“So we missed the entire march. You know, the graduation song, and that’s what us moms wait — we wait an entire lifetime for that,” Patrice said. “I feel like we weren’t informed. That’s my main complaint.”

A school spokesperson tells 10 On Your Side parents received a robocall on Sunday noting when everyone needed to be in their seats, and that the venue would limit access during the procession, for safety reasons and to keep order.

Coley says she didn’t receive it and she didn’t see a sign or hear an announcement that night about when the gates would close.

Coley says she and several other people who got locked outside were eventually allowed back in. She’s grateful she got to see Trevor accept his diploma, but had hoped to see more.

“I’ll never be able to get that time back. I’ll never get that time back. Never.”

The school spokesperson also said school officials don’t manage gates or crowd control. She referred WAVY News to the Portsmouth Pavilion, who said the front gate is managed based on specific instructions provided by the schools.