Students involved in brawl at Athens High won't walk at graduation

WAAY 31 spoke with the two students about their disappointment.

Posted: May 23, 2019 7:46 PM
Updated: May 23, 2019 9:16 PM

Athens High School will have their graduation ceremony Thursday night, but two seniors are upset they won’t get to participate with their classmates.

After Gabby Kirby and Makaleb Boykin were involved in a brawl at the high school back in April, school officials told them they wouldn’t be allowed to walk at the ceremony.

On behalf of Kirby and Boykin, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a suit against the school district and asked for an expedited hearing, but the judge refused to hear their case.

WAAY 31 spoke with the two students about their disappointment.

“You go to school, of course, for twelve or thirteen years and that’s what you look forward to," Gabby Kirby said.

That's what Gabby Kirby said about graduation. It’s something Gabby said she never thought she’d have to miss.

“I was really excited to make my mom proud," she said. "To get to do something that my mom and dad haven’t gotten to do."

But, after an incident at Athens High School that ended with Gabby and her cousin, Makaleb, in handcuffs, attending their graduation ceremony was no longer an option.

“I feel like they just snatched away a memory that I can’t have," Makaleb Boykin said. "I have a twin brother that I won’t be able to walk with today.”

Both students told WAAY 31 they feel like the punishment they received was extreme and unfair.

And that’s why the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit against the Athens City School District.

The complaint states the school district lacks sufficient evidence to prove the students violated the code of conduct.

Both Gabby and Makaleb, along with their attorneys, sat at the Limestone County Courthouse all day on Thursday, in hopes of seeing a judge who could potentially grant them the opportunity to walk at graduation. But the judge never saw them.

Because of this, Gabby and Makaleb have decided to host their own graduation ceremony.

“We want it to be an opportunity for students who haven’t gotten to walk to come and walk with us, so they won’t miss out on graduation," Makaleb said.

Both students told WAAY 31 that they’ll be moving forward from this, no matter what.

“I’m still going to further my education, because, obviously, that’s what you need to get somewhere in life," Gabby said. "So, I’m going to do that and just move on.”

Gabby and Makaleb's graduation ceremony will be held on Friday at Freshwind Christian Fellowship on Lucas Ferry Road in Athens. It will start at 7:00 p.m. and the public is invited to attend.

Michael Tafelski, senior supervising attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center, provided the following statement:

“It’s disappointing that the judge assigned to the cases did not have enough time to hear them today and provide the immediate, simple remedy our clients deserve in advance of Athens High School’s graduation tonight: the permission to attend and walk in celebration of their milestone accomplishment. We are proud to stand with our clients, and they have demonstrated courage through this difficult time. We will continue to advocate for our clients and other children across Alabama and the South who experience injustice.

“The students and their families, friends, and community members will attend a public community graduation ceremony, open to media, tomorrow May 24 at Freshwind Christian Fellowship at seven o’clock in the evening. While it’s not the graduation the students intended on attending at the beginning of this school year, it will show the strength of the Athens community and recognize the students’ achievements.”

“Moving forward to the 2019-2020 school year, Athens City Schools and the Athens Police Department should ensure police officers working in the city’s schools have specialized training to work with youth and in schools, focus on de-escalation over escalation, and better define the role of officers in schools. Moreover, the school system should take a long and hard look at its disciplinary practices, which students are being disciplined and why, and commit to decrease the racial disparities that exist – especially for overly harsh and punitive responses to misbehavior. Nationally, students of color routinely receive harsher disciplinary measures for the same offenses their white peers are accused of; Athens must be better.”

Huntsville/Redstone
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 44°
Muscle Shoals
Clear
53° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 53°
Huntsville/Madison
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 46°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
51° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 51°
Fort Payne
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 48°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 522512

Reported Deaths: 10790
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson755371494
Mobile39129799
Madison34124500
Tuscaloosa25408444
Montgomery24059573
Shelby23225242
Baldwin20730302
Lee15638166
Calhoun14358311
Morgan14171273
Etowah13705348
Marshall12012220
Houston10416279
Elmore10024203
Limestone9862148
Cullman9509191
St. Clair9486236
Lauderdale9280233
DeKalb8762183
Talladega8127173
Walker7151276
Autauga6763106
Jackson6762110
Blount6532133
Colbert6236132
Coffee5436113
Dale4781111
Russell431239
Franklin421382
Chilton4130110
Covington4069115
Tallapoosa3922148
Escambia390374
Dallas3528150
Chambers3519122
Clarke347360
Marion3076100
Pike306676
Lawrence296395
Winston273272
Bibb256761
Marengo248561
Geneva246475
Pickens233259
Barbour227155
Hale218675
Butler213268
Fayette209660
Henry188444
Cherokee182744
Randolph177841
Monroe173140
Washington165538
Macon156548
Clay150255
Crenshaw149557
Cleburne147041
Lamar140034
Lowndes137353
Wilcox124727
Bullock122040
Conecuh109728
Perry107726
Sumter103332
Coosa99428
Greene91434
Choctaw58824
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 835842

Reported Deaths: 12081
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby930851587
Davidson88030924
Knox49813624
Hamilton43402485
Rutherford42319420
Williamson27545216
Sumner23492341
Montgomery19623224
Wilson18472229
Out of TN1803295
Unassigned16760132
Sullivan16184287
Blount15180194
Bradley14599147
Washington14177242
Maury13211169
Sevier13166175
Putnam11168173
Madison10789241
Robertson9607130
Anderson8627171
Hamblen8498171
Greene7739152
Tipton7226104
Coffee6831121
Dickson6734109
Cumberland6568127
Carter6468156
Bedford6426129
Gibson6402144
McMinn636597
Roane6191102
Jefferson6073121
Loudon601669
Lawrence580686
Hawkins5781106
Monroe570995
Warren551381
Dyer5361104
Franklin508688
Fayette492178
Obion450296
Cheatham444454
Cocke443798
Rhea431275
Lincoln430663
Marshall411158
Campbell409662
Weakley402862
Giles395399
Henderson372975
Macon358077
Carroll357582
White354868
Hardin349766
Hardeman346464
Lauderdale314444
Henry312475
Marion309946
Claiborne306273
Scott305545
Overton296961
Wayne294334
Hickman280546
McNairy276854
DeKalb275653
Smith274838
Haywood268361
Grainger259149
Trousdale249022
Morgan246039
Fentress238546
Johnson231638
Bledsoe209711
Chester209451
Crockett201048
Polk200024
Unicoi194549
Cannon188931
Union186034
Grundy177933
Humphreys174221
Lake169526
Sequatchie166728
Benton163240
Decatur157338
Lewis155826
Meigs134823
Stewart130828
Jackson129935
Clay109031
Houston108533
Perry105728
Moore100017
Van Buren83421
Pickett75624
Hancock54912

Community Events