ATLANTA (WKRN) – For a while this week, Paris Gray, who plans to attend Nashville’s Tennessee State University in the fall, thought she might not be able to give a speech at her Clayton County, Georgia high school graduation.
The 17-year-old was apparently told by someone at Mundy’s Mill High School that a yearbook quote could keep her from giving the planned graduation speech next week.
There had even been reports that Gray had been suspended and might not even get to walk at her graduation.
The yearbook quote was all about chemistry, the kind found in the Period Table of Elements.
The quote said exactly this: “When the going gets tough, just remember to Barium Carbon Potassium Thorium Astatine Arsenic Sulfer Utranium Phospheros.”
Forget the yearbook’s misspellings of the last three words; the symbols for the elements spell out: “Ba C K Th At As S U P,” which can be interpreted as “back that a$* up.”
Gray, however, was not disciplined as once thought. Charles White, the coordinator for communications at Clayton County Schools, told News 2 it was all “a miscommunication between the student, her parents and the administration.”
White said the matter was resolved Tuesday after a meeting between those involved.
“She will be able to give her graduation speech,” added White.
In an interview with Atlanta’s WSB-TV, Gray was asked what she has learned from all of this.
“Well, what I have learned was never give up, strive for what I wanted and be more careful next time in the future,” she said.
And what about her graduation speech topic now?
“You are just going to have to come to graduation to find out,” Gray said with a smile.
A Georgia high school student is waiting to find out if she can walk at her graduation ceremony because of the quote she added to the yearbook.
WSB-TV first reported Paris Gray received an in-school suspension after the books were distributed at the school in Clayton County, south of Atlanta.
The quote reads, “When the going gets tough just remember to Barium Carbon Potassium Thorium Astatine Arsenic Sulfer Utranium Phospheros.”
School administrators learned Friday that by using the abbreviations for the elements from the periodic table, the quote spelled, “To back that a$* up.”
Gray told the news station the message wasn’t flagged by any editors or adults.
“I think their reaction was beyond what it should have been because nobody understood it,” she explained. “Basically, it was me just saying start all over again. You have to go back and start all over.”
Her mother, Zarinah Woods, said, “My first reaction was ‘you are such a nerd.'”
Gray wasn’t allowed to participate in her senior walk last Friday and was told by an assistant principal she wouldn’t be allowed to speak at graduation as scheduled.
Gray is a leader on campus, the senior class vice president and a member of both SADD and the Beta Club.
She says the news “just completely destroyed” her, adding, “And my mom’s been telling me don’t let it ruin my happiness, but it’s like, really taking a big toll.”
After speaking to the news station about the incident, the school principal called and spoke with Gray and her mother.
A district spokesperson told WSB-TV that no decision has been made and the area superintendent, the school principal and Gray’s mother would meet Tuesday morning.