A white Georgia principal has come under fire this weekend for what onlookers called racist comments at her school’s graduation ceremony.
TNT Academy founder Nancy Gordeuk made the comments Friday, as she tried to get graduates and their families to pay attention after accidentally dismissing them before the class valedictorian could give his speech. In doing so, she called a man who had been conspicuously taking pictures or video of the ceremony a “goober” and a “coward.” Those comments appear to cause an unrelated family to walk out with their graduate.
Gordeuk then addresses her mistake about the valedictorian to the crowd.
“You people are being so rude to not listen to this speech,” Gordeuk tells the audience, according to video recordings of the ceremony posted to social media. “It was my fault that we missed it in the program. Look who’s leaving — all the black people.”
At that, the audience erupts as Gordeuk stands at the podium with her hand on her hip. Several black honors graduates appear to walk off the stage in protest.
“It’s just very sad,” Jada Gibson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday. Gibson, who was among those who posted videos of the comments online, attended the ceremony to support her cousin, who was graduating. She said each of the school’s 48 graduates had to pay between $250 and $300 for the ceremony, which she said was marred throughout by Gordeuk’s comments — including, Gibson said, an aside about a crying baby that should have its mouth taped shut.
Gordeuk could not be reached for comment Saturday by the AJC, but told Channel 2 Action News that she did not mean harm. Gibson said Gordeuk also sent students and families an email Saturday apologizing for the ceremony.
“It’s just that’s where I looked…the man that came up front was black,” Gordeuk told the station. “I guess I was frustrated at him for interrupting this speech for this student.”
TNT Academy, based in Stone Mountain, is private and is what’s known in school circles as a nontraditional education center. It offers classes and independent study for seventh- through 12th-graders and also provides credit recovery for public school students who have failed a class at their regular school.
The school is accredited through the Georgia Accrediting Commission.