Principal suspended after speech, diploma incident

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PINETOPS — The principal of SouthWest Edgecombe High School has been suspended following an incident in which a student’s diploma was withheld over a speech he delivered at commencement.

According to a document provided by Edgecombe County Schools, Craig Harris was suspended with pay from his job as principal at SouthWest Edgecombe, a position he has held since 2015.

Marvin Wright, a 2017 graduate of the high school, had to wait two days to receive his diploma after he delivered a speech that he had written instead of a short statement that had been prepared by the school administration.

Wright said Friday that he was pleased the action had been taken.

“I’m glad that he got some type of punishment or whatever,” said Wright. “I’m glad the disciplinary action was taken. I think it was very deserving.”

Edgecombe County Schools Superintendent John Farrelly said that Wright’s diploma should have been given to him on graduation day.

The incident drew national headlines.

In addition to several local newspapers including The Wilson Times and the Rocky Mount Telegram, Wright said he had also been contacted by The Washington Post, Time Magazine, Teen Vogue, Fox News, WRAL-TV and WTVD-TV. The Times’ story was quoted on The Blaze, a news and political commentary website run by pundit Glenn Beck.

“I’m glad that what happened is being heard,” Wright said. “I’m glad that my story is being heard and I want more people to be aware of it.”

School officials said Wright was penalized not because of the content of the speech, but because he used a cellphone to deliver it and because he didn’t turn it in by the correct deadline.

“I wasn’t ever given a due date on the speech,” Wright said Friday.

Wright has signed up to enter the Navy this fall.

dwilson@wilsontimes.com | 265-7818