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Frustrated crowd forms at BRCC as parents reportedly locked out of high school graduation

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BATON ROUGE - Family members of graduating high school students became furious Friday evening after they were reportedly locked out of the venue at Baton Rouge Community College's campus.

Despite having tickets, several parents reported being locked out of the Belaire High School graduation ceremony hosted at 6 p.m. in the gymnasium at BRCC.

"Out of 271 children, each got 10 tickets. 2000 people are not going to fit into a gym," said Tarell Flowers who was able to watch his sister graduate. Although he added the chaos found its way inside as attendees realized something was wrong. "It got really rowdy and out of control."

Some witnesses reported that graduates were even walking out over the debacle.

According to a BRCC spokesperson:

...it wasn’t a capacity issue. It was a crowd control issue. As individuals did not follow directions of the EBR Sheriff’s Office to sit down, move out of restricted areas, or unblock doorways, they made the call to restrict the movement of the crowd until individuals listened and they could regain control. This led to individuals becoming unruly as they restricted entry and exit from the building until full control could be realized. 

BRPD and the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office both confirmed they were responding to the incident.

The East Baton Rouge Parish School System tells WBRZ the auditorium had enough seating to accommodate all attendees who had tickets to the ceremony.

BRCC released the following statement Friday night:

Baton Rouge Community College has a long history of working with the community and opening our doors for special events, like tonight’s commencement.

While partnering with the community and local organizations in allowing them the use of our facilities, safety is always our top priority. It is required that we obey all established rules and regulations established by the Fire Marshall as well as law enforcement pertaining to safety and crowd control issues. 

Graduation is a special time for families and friends and we sincerely regret that the entry and exit of the building had to be restricted by the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office for crowd control issues. When having events of this size, we yield to the authority of the Sheriff’s Office and follow their directives to ensure the safety of all individuals present. To gain control of the unruly crowd, the Sheriff’s Department determined that it was best to restrict the flow of movement in and out of the building until they regained control.

Upon regaining control of the crowd, the EBR Sheriff’s Office allowed individuals to enter and exit the facility again.

The EBR School System released the following statement: 

The East Baton Rouge Parish School System and Belaire High School express sincere regret and apologies to our students and their loved ones. 

In order to ensure safety, the facility management staff at BRCC temporarily delayed families and EBR staff from entering the building. Students work extremely hard to achieve this milestone and in spite of the events that transpired tonight, we would like to celebrate their accomplishments as a family and a community.

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