Philadelphia Teen Barred From Attending Graduation After Being Shot 10 Times
Dashawn Walker is a high school graduate and gun violence survivor. Though he has mostly recovered physically, the 18-year-old remains anguished following his ordeal, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
On February 21, 2023, the then-17-year-old was walking home from school in North Philadelphia when a man exited his vehicle and shot him 10 times. The recovery was grueling—a dozen surgeries that left Walker hospitalized for months. He had to complete his senior year at the Mathematics, Civics, and Sciences Charter School virtually. Despite these challenges, Walker hoped to walk alongside his classmates at graduation. However, this never happened.
Veronica Joyner is the chief administrator of his school. She personally interviewed Walker in the admissions process and, when she found out about his attack, became worried for the student. Soon, however, her concern morphed into fear.
After discovering that Walker was targeted, Joyner and the school board decided to exclude the teenager from all in-person activities, including graduation. This decision stemmed from Joyner’s fear that Walker’s shooter could attack him again, this time at school.
Walker’s assailant was identified as 20-year-old Micah Roane. Though he resides in the same neighborhood as the teenager, the two have never interacted, Walker saids. The teen insisted that the pair never had any previous conversation or altercation. Captain James Kearney of the Philadelphia Police Department shared that Walker “seemed like a good kid” with no prior run-ins with the law; prosecutors also confirmed that he was not involved in any street violence.
“I was the victim, and I felt like I was the problem,” said Walker.
Walker attempted to reason with Joyner to no avail. “My heart goes out to Dashawn, but I didn’t create the situation. My actions didn’t involve me in something that got me shot,” Joyner told the Inquirer.
She claimed that Walker should be satisfied that the school helped him graduate and that prom and graduation ceremonies are privileges, not rights.
Over the years, Joyner has made headlines. The Education Law Center filed a lawsuit against the charter school earlier this year involving a girl who had an argument with her classmates. That same organization filed another lawsuit in 2019, alleging that the school rejected a 6-year-old’s admission because she required services for ADHD, according to the Philadelphia ChalkBeat. Joyner was also listed in a 2008 employment discrimination lawsuit from a former instructor at the school.
After the shooting, Walker was informed by several of his friends that Joyner kept commenting about how he could afford designer items, insinuating that he participates in illicit activities. Despite denying such comments, in an interview, she did question where his family earned the money for his prom suit, which cost upward of $1,000.
Joyner has much to boast about regarding her charter school’s achievements, including their recent mock trial international champions, 6ABC Philadelphia reports. But, regardless of its success, her recent actions mar an already significant event not just for students but the city, given the district’s recent initiative. Suffering from considerably high drop-out rates and unsatisfactory graduation rates, Philadelphia’s Superintendent Tony Watlington Sr. announced a plan to improve academic performance within the school district and boost success rates, according to Pennsylvania Capital Star.
Still, there is a bright spot in Walker’s future. He plans to attend Shippensburg University and major in either business or health care. He also hopes to start a support group for other victims of gun violence. Walker is beginning a new chapter in his life. Though he can’t change the past and there is no guarantee that he can ever change Joyner’s mind, he wants to make a difference.