The Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office on Monday was given the name of two individuals who school officials believe were involved with distributing the batch of counterfeit tickets that soured Plaquemine High’s graduation ceremony last week when relatives with actual tickets were locked out of the event to prevent overcrowding.
Authorities would not release those names Monday but Elvis Cavalier, chief academic officer for the Iberville Parish school district, said the individuals are recent Plaquemine High graduates.
“We did an investigation over the weekend,” Cavalier said. “From what I was told, and have seen from pictures and videos sent to me, these individuals went all over town trying to make copies of actual tickets. I heard they went to the library but couldn’t make color copies there so they went to Kinko’s.”
“I don’t have any idea why they did this,” he added.
Sheriff Brett Stassi said his office is now looking into the matter but would need hard evidence before any charges could be filed.
“If we can get statements that prove these folks made the copies, then we can press charges — just misdemeanor charges, though,” he said.
At least 40 relatives of graduating seniors were greeted by a locked door Friday night when they arrived at the school gymnasium.
They were told they couldn’t go in because the gym had reached capacity by the time the ceremony began at 7 p.m.
“I thought there was going to be a riot. People were kicking at the door and everything,” said Tobey Leonard, one of the parents who was holding an actual ticket but couldn’t get inside. “They took a lot away from a lot of families.”
Leonard had hopes of getting video footage of his youngest son receiving his diploma to show his ex-wife, who they’ve been told has only months left to live.
The graduation was originally to take place at the school’s football stadium, a venue so large tickets wouldn’t have been required.
But the school administration had to change the venue at the last minute due to inclement weather, moving the commencement exercises to the gymnasium — which seats about 875 people, Cavalier said.
Each of the school’s 113 graduating seniors was given seven tickets to share with family and friends.
Plaquemine High Principal Chandler Smith said in an email Monday the official tickets were printed on ivory card stock with the school’s green wax crest stamped on the left corner.
As for the fake tickets, Smith said, “they were closely copied but the card stock color was different and they did not have the green wax crest that ours had.”
Cavalier said faculty and staff members working the door at the event had taken approximately 50 or more fake tickets, which have been turned over to police.
“The tickets were hastily done,” Cavalier said Monday. “They should have had some kind of watermark element on them. Something that made them hard to duplicate.”
School Board President Darlene Ourso was sympathetic to the relatives who were locked out, but she also expressed empathy Monday with the school’s administration.
“They got over on us, but it’s no fault of our employees,” she said. “I know that doesn’t make the parents feel better. With the week of graduation there is so much going on. Our employees work hard.”
Ourso suggests that perhaps in the future tickets be given out on the day of graduation to prevent someone from being able to duplicate more.
Cavalier spent the weekend fielding calls from angry relatives, many of whom were from out of town, complaining about not getting to see their loved ones walk across the stage and accept their high school diplomas.
“We’re trying to get photos and videos to parents. We’re gonna do everything humanly possible,” he said. “Unfortunately, we can’t go back and re-do graduation. That’s a moment in time that’s gone for those children and parents.”
Leonard said Monday he would be satisfied with receiving video footage of the ceremony.
“That’s one of the big things for me; to be able to see it,” he said. “Even if they were to do a re-do, that might work for some, but not for me. I’m leaving this afternoon to drive my grandkids back to California. I’ll be gone for a month.”
Leonard believes the culprits who made the fake tickets should be forced to provide restitution to the families affected by this.
“God only knows I don’t want any money, but there are a lot of families that feel something should be done.”
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.