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Diplomas temporarily stripped from 2 students who wore military cords at graduation

Two North Carolina students said they had their diplomas taken away because they wore military cords around their necks at graduation.

>> Woman graduates from Naval Academy 5 years after struggling to get ex-NFL player dad's signature

The two graduates wore the special cords during graduation to symbolize their enlistment in the U.S. Army.

Their celebration turned to punishment after they wore their cords Friday at West Bladen High School in Bladen County, located in eastern North Carolina.

A school administrator said they broke the rules because their cords weren't pre-approved.

>> Read more trending news 

"Ms. Kelly came up to them and asked them if she could see the diplomas, and they handed them to her and she kept them," a mother, Wendy Paris, said. "I don't have a problem with rules and policies, but some of them are ridiculous."

Paris said she was able to get her son's diploma back the day after graduation.

Elementary school’s name changes from honoring Confederate general to honoring Barack Obama

Elementary school students will be attending a new school but in the same building when they return to class in the fall. 

The Richmond School Board voted 6-1 Monday to rename J.E.B. Stuart Elementary School to Barack Obama Elementary School. It was the city’s only school named in honor of the Confederacy, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

The lone holdout, Kenya Gibson, had asked for a delay of the vote because there were no local names being considered in the school’s renaming. Gibson represents the 3rd District where Barack Obama Elementary School is located.

>> Read more trending news 

This isn’t the first school named for the country’s first African-American president. A new elementary school in New Haven, Connecticut will be named after Obama. Another school in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, is also named for the 44th president, the Times-Dispatch reported.

A school in Mississippi changed its name from Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, to Obama.

The Richmond School Board said it will cost the district $26,000 to make the change, including new signage, new mats with the name written on them, new stationery, business cards and other office supplies and T-shirts for faculty, staff and students, the Times-Dispatch reported.

'At Last': School receptionist celebrates summer break with viral intercom serenade

A school receptionist's stunning ode to summer is going viral.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

According to USA Today, Regina Ballard, who works at North Lincoln High in Lincolnton, North Carolina, took to the school intercom Wednesday to welcome summer break with a joyful rendition of Etta James' "At Last."

The performance, which was captured on video, quickly made the rounds on social media.

>> Read more trending news 

"I love my job, y'all, but I look forward to summers when I can spend time with my grands & family, it is...At Last!!!" Ballard, 57, wrote Wednesday in a Facebook post that racked up more than 11,000 shares and 620,000 views by Sunday morning.

>> Watch the video here

Ballard told USA Today that she's "blown away" by all the attention.

Read more here.

Massachusetts teacher apologizes for insensitive LGBTQ tweet

A Massachusetts gym teacher has apologized for an insensitive comment he posted on Twitter. 

>> Read more trending news

Hingham High School physical education teacher Jon Rice replied to a tweet the Boston Red Sox posted on June 7 about LGBTQ Pride month.

Rice replied to the post, “Nothing to be proud of here Red Sox. We don't need rainbows on the pitcher’s mound. ... what's next rainbow uniforms? Rainbow home plate? Rainbow monster?”

Rice has since removed his comment and made his Twitter account private. 

Some members of the Hingham High School community expressed their concerns about the post, which got the attention of school leaders.

“They were perceived by a number of readers as inappropriate at best and possibly homophobic,” Superintendent Dorothy Galo said in a statement. 

Galo said she and Principal Rick Swanson were disappointed by Rice’s lapse in judgment. She called Rice a respected teacher and noted the high school faculty and students made great strides this school year to create a more welcoming and respectful environment for all students.

“I know that apologies can't erase the upset that individuals reading the posts may have felt or the resulting negative attention to our school's culture and climate that so many students and staff have worked hard to improve,” Galo said. 

Swanson sent a letter to students, parents and teachers on Thursday to address the controversy. 

Swanson’s letter read, in part, “In apologizing to me (Wednesday) night, and to his students [Thursday], this teacher acknowledged a ‘very poor choice of words’ that failed to convey the message he had intended to deliver.” 

Included in the letter was an apology from Rice. "I am truly sorry for making a statement that clearly offended and hurt people,” he said. “I respect and value all of my students, and I deeply regret making statements that might suggest otherwise."

Galo said she acknowledges Rice’s “sincere and prompt response by removing the objectionable posts and taking full responsibility for trying to mitigate the unintended emotional harm that has resulted.”

California student wears KKK costume for school project

A California high school student who wrote about a former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan for a history project sparked outrage when he came to school dressed in the conical hood, white fabric mask and flowing robes of the group, KABC reported.

>> Read more trending news

Photos of social media captured a high school freshman dressed in KKK garb at Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy in Wilmington, California. Students at the school said the photos were taken June 8.

The school has a 96 percent minority enrollment, CNN reported.

The student’s history project was about Hiram Wesley Evans, a dentist who was the Klan’s leader from 1922 to 1939. While other students also dressed in costumes to depict historical figures, students at the school were taken aback by the KKK outfit, which they said was approved by the teacher.

"He wore it like throughout the school, like in nutrition, lunch, things like that. I don't think that's appropriate," Lance Dantignac told KABC.

"It made me feel like unsafe and threatened," Eliza Dumag told the television station.

Students said the history teacher approved all choices for history projects and costumes that are worn, but added that the approval of a KKK member was troubling.

"It kind of rattled me. It was hard to believe that she would allow a klansman to walk around from her approval,” Trinity Young told KABC. “So, we asked her, and she said that, she compared the Klan to the Black Panther Party, which in my opinion are two different things. So yeah, it was troubling."

In a statement, officials from the Los Angeles Unified School District apologized and did not approve of the costume.

"L.A. Unified and Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy understand the extreme sensitivity around this issue and do not condone or support this type of re-enactment," said district officials, who added that they have begun an investigation.

5th-grader makes heartbreaking speech to school board on bullying

On Thursday night, fifth-grader Delanie Marcotte smiled at her New Hampshire school board as she sat a table before them. 

Delanie unfolded a piece of paper and began to read her statement. 

Before the Timberlane Regional School Board Thursday night, Delanie tearfully asked what the members were doing to protect her from bullies. 

>> Read more trending news 

“I have been threatened to get shot in the head by an AK-47 and buried in my back yard,” Delanie said. “I have been asked by the mother of my bully during a school field trip why I tried to get her son in trouble.” 

After Delanie read her statement, she looked up at the school board, who thanked her for speaking.

One board member commented on her bravery, but offered no response. 

WFXT reached the superintendent’s office by phone, who said the superintendent had no comment. However, Dr. Earl F. Metzler later sent a statement to WFXT, saying, "Student voice is one of my goals posted on the web site for 17/18 and a powerful way for students to tell us what we need to hear." 

"We have a process defined by the law and SB policy to follow," the statement continued. "I am monitoring the process and will participate when appropriate." 

Delanie’s father, Todd Marcotte, posted video of the school board meeting to his Facebook page, which has drawn support from all over the country. 

Here is Delanie’s full statement:

“I’m here to talk about a problem that means a lot to me – bullying. Bullying is a problem in our school. I am a victim of it. My parents have contacted the school about it, but it continues. It happened to me and my classmates. I have been asked by the mother of my bully during a school field trip why I tried to get her son in trouble. I have been threatened to get shot in the head by an AK-47 and buried in my back yard and many other things. I ask you what are you going to do to protect me and my classmates against bullying. I am here to stand up for every kid that gets bullied.”

The full meeting can be watched below. Delanie’s statement begins at 3:30. 

Texas teen who was paralyzed walks at graduation ceremony

A Texas teen who was paralyzed last summer vowed she would walk for her graduation. Thursday night, she made good on her promise.

>> Read more trending news

Morgan Coultress graduated from Health Careers High School in San Antonio and got a standing ovation from the crowd and her fellow students, KSAT reported.

Coultress underwent thyroid surgery for a genetic disease, but complications caused her to lose her ability to walk, the television station reported.

After beginning therapy, she was able to walk without crutches. Her next goal is to compete in cross country events again, KSAT reported.

A month ago, Coultress was featured in a viral video when she walked to surprise her prom date.

>> Watch: Texas teen walks for first time in months, stuns prom date

Tarik Garcia, her friend and prom date last month, said Coultress’ positive attitude has helped her.

“She's always been a super positive person. She's one of the best people I know. She has not a single bad bone in her body,” Garcia told KSAT. “After seeing her struggle through so much and finally being able to do what we talked about so many months ago.”

Photographer accused of scamming a dozen brides also ripped off school, woman claims

Less than 24 hours after a dozen brides came forward and said they had lost thousands of dollars to Alphonso Morris, with A&T Enterprise, for wedding photography they never got, the founder of Academy of Scholars, a private school in Arlington, Florida, claimed Morris also ripped her off.

>> Watch the news report here

“At this time, it needs to be stopped. There’s too many people that trust him,” Shevonica Howell said.

>> Read more trending news 

Howell said she hired Morris in 2016 to be the band director at her school.

“I did see some red flags, I’ll be honest, on the background check, but things happen,” Howell said.

But she said that after he didn’t show up to work for 19 of the 44 instructional days, he was fired.

“He probably had about 10 kids based on how many times there was a birth or a death. I just couldn’t understand that,” Howell said.

When he left, she said, he took all the band equipment that was donated to the school.

She said she then found out he created a GoFundMe account with the school’s logo asking for donations.

“To scam the community, kids that look up to him – I don’t understand that,” Howell said.

Howell said she went to police and never heard from Morris again.

The Better Business Bureau has created a file on Morris’ businesses to help warn others.

“To hear that there were dozens of people scammed by this company and we weren’t reflecting that was disheartening,” said Shannon Nelson with the Better Business Bureau.

ActionNewsJax also found Morris was connected to another business called Snap It Photography.

A lawsuit was filed that claims Morris didn’t show up to photograph an event and it states, “This young man turned out to be a con artist."

The BBB wants people to contact the agency with complaints against Morris.

ActionNewsJax tried to contact Morris again but couldn’t get in touch with him.

Woman graduates from Naval Academy 5 years after struggling to get ex-NFL player dad's signature

Florida's military community has a new addition: Ashanti Curry of Jacksonville graduated last week from the United States Naval Academy.

>> Watch the news report here

ActionNewsJax first introduced you to Curry when she was 17 years old and her dream of attending the Naval Academy almost didn't happen.

>> On ActionNewsJax helps Naval Academy hopeful get dad's signature for admission

Her smile says it all. It’s even more of an accomplishment when you consider what it took to get her here.

In 2013, the honor student faced losing her academy acceptance because it required both parents’ signatures.

Her father, former Jacksonville Jaguars player Eric Curry, was never in her life and had an arrest warrant out for unpaid child support. Her attempts to get him to sign all failed.

>> Read more trending news 

“This man has never made one decision in my life, but the most important decision that needs to be made he has that in his hands. I was very upset,” Curry said at the time.

It took phone calls to Eric Curry, his attorney, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s office and eventually a temporary stay of his arrest warrant.

But finally, Curry got the signature she needed.

Now, five years later, she's graduated from the Naval Academy. Her first salute was to her stepfather, a gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

Curry is now writing the next chapter to her story, a story of service that Jacksonville and our country can be proud of.

Curry's mother contacted ActionNewsJax’s Paige Kelton on Facebook this weekend with pictures and two words that were a reminder of the power one person’s story can have. The picture was of Curry’s graduation, the words – “thank you.”

Woman who went into labor during Harvard Law School final graduates

Nothing was going to stop Briana Williams from achieving her dream, not even going into labor during a final exam. 

All the hard work finally paid off for the single mother, originally from Atlanta, as she walked across the stage recently to receive her degree from Harvard Law.

Williams finished her final exam while in labor last year. This year, she carried her baby girl, who wore a cap and gown that matched her mother’s, USAToday reported.

She posted to Instagram about how difficult the past year had been, trying to finish law school while raising a newborn.

>> Read more trending news 

Williams said she had dreams of becoming a lawyer and her first choice for the degree was Harvard Law. But the hard work of getting a degree at the prestigious school was made more difficult trying to balance school, work and her baby. 

“I didn’t tell anyone that I had a baby,” Williams told USAToday. “I never missed any activity because I didn’t want anyone to think that me having a baby was holding me back.”

Three and a half weeks after she had Evelyn, Williams started a summer job. She would use what time she could, like lunch breaks, for Evelyn’s checkups.

Williams is moving to the West Coast to follow her career. She was offered a job in the litigation department in a Los Angeles law firm, USAToday reported.

And to those who find themselves in a similar situation of caring for a child while still trying to achieve their dreams, Williams says: “Try as hard as you can to do what you have to do ... Eventually you’re going to receive the glory from that. And not only that, your child is going to be even more appreciative of you and the sacrifices you made.”

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