Mom outraged when teen’s name isn’t called at graduation after suspected drunk driver kills her

PIKE COUNTY, Ga. — The mother of a teenager killed by a suspected drunk driver says she went to her daughter’s high school commencement to hear her name called, but it wasn’t.

Pike County High School placed her cap and gown in a chair in her memory, but Traci Lester says that wasn’t enough.

Now, the Pike County School System says it fell short of the family’s expectations.

Lester wonders what the school system was thinking.

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“It was very important to us as a family to be there to honor her,” she told Channel 2′s Tom Jones.

She says she and her family were at Pike County High School Friday for her daughter’s commencement ceremony.

“We were there to hear them call her name...as a graduate,” Lester said proudly.

They were stunned when they never heard Rylee Lester’s name called. Lester was frantic as she sat there and realized what happened. She says she reached out to a teacher sitting nearby.

“They missed her name. She passed away and they didn’t call her name,” she says she told the teacher.

Rylee and her boyfriend were killed back in January in Arkansas by a suspected drunk driver. She was headed there to begin her new life after getting enough credits to graduate early.

Lester says the school invited her to the ceremony and even sat her cap and gown in a chair among the graduates.

Lester says that meant nothing after the school didn’t call her daughter’s name.

“I just got up and walked off the field. I was very upset. Very distraught that they just totally ignored my daughter,” she said.


Pike County Schools Deputy Superintendent Ross Iddlings sent a statement that said:

“We are deeply sorry for any pain that this situation has caused the family. It is clear that there was a breakdown in communication between the district and the family, and as a result, we did not meet the expectations they had for observance during the commencement ceremony. The practice that was conducted during the ceremony was consistent to similar observations in previous years. As we always do when a concern is raised, we will evaluate our process and make modifications if it is determined that there is a better way to conduct a practice of any kind. Again, it was not our intention to offend or make anyone feel slighted, and we deeply regret that the family was hurt by our actions.”

—  Pike County Schools Deputy Superintendent Ross Iddlings

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Lester says her daughter worked too hard for the family not to hear her name called.

She also said she didn’t want any other family who lost a student to have to go through something like this.

“That is completely uncalled for and very hurtful to families,” she said.


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