Friday, June 01, 2007

Excessive Exuberance Costs Students Diplomas

I can understand the request for audience decorum at a high school graduation.

"Lots of parents complained that they could not hear their own child's name called," said Joel Estes, Galesburg's assistant superintendent. "And I think that led us to saying we have to do something about this to restore some dignity and honor to the ceremony so that everyone can appreciate it and enjoy it."


I can agree with this tactic for those who cannot comply.

In Indianapolis, public school officials this year started kicking out parents and relatives who cheer. At one school, the superintendent interrupted last month's graduation to order police to remove a woman from the gymnasium.


But this just seems stupid.

Gayles was one of five students denied diplomas from the lone public high school in Galesburg after enthusiastic friends or family members cheered for them during commencement.


And this seems even more stupid.

Meanwhile, the school said the five students can still get their diplomas by completing eight hours of public service work, answering phones, sorting books or doing other chores for the district, situated about 150 miles southwest of Chicago.


Unfortunately, the group that seems to make the most sense here is the ACLU.

American Civil Liberties Union spokesman Edward Yohnka said Galesburg's policy raises no red flags as long as it is enforced equitably. "It's probably well within the school's ability to control the decorum at an event like this," he said.


I guess the issue, then, isn't if the school can do this, but whether they should.

Is anyone in this situation acting like an adult?

40 comments:

Tony said...

I have tried to think of something witty or insightful to say in reply, but the actions of the school just seem so idiotic to me that I am simply dumbfounded.

Ellen K said...

With my own three kids and being a high school teacher, I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, we do want families to celebrate this milestone. For some families this may be a step up historically and I can't blame them for their joy. On the other hand, graduations, along with weddings, bar mitvahs, sweet sixteens, quinceneras and all other types of "rite of passage" ceremonies have become virtual free for alls. I have seen people use airhorns, firecrackers, noisemakers and all other kinds of distractions at graduation which not only takes away from the serious nature of the event, but keeps other families from hearing their children's names announced. I don't know what happened to our society that we feel like we are constantly auditioning for America's Funniest Home Video, but it has to stop. I would add that I don't like seeing brides and grooms smash wedding cakes into each others faces. I don't like seeing dancing and hearing music that I would expect to find at a bar or strip club at other teen events. On some level, parents have to be willing to pull back on the reins and tell kids that there are certain events where circumspect behavior is expected. And if the parents won't do that, then I do think the school district is in line to make this a serious issue to the kids, so that they kids can relay that to their families. This is right in line with the whole idea of designating what is and is not appropriate attire for a school prom, what is or is not appropriate behavior for a scholar or athlete regarding drinking, drug use and criminal behavior such as hazing. Once again, schools didn't have to make these kinds of policies in the past because the unwritten code held up by all parents was the concept of decency. Now it is as if even the parents can't tell the difference between good taste and debauchery.

Anonymous said...

These kids actually graduated. I work with juveniles all day long and while some people think everyone graduates from high school, that is not true. We should applaud these kids for an accomplishment. If that means letting people scream & yell - who cares?

Anonymous said...

Since when do we punish our hard-working kids for the actions of adults? This is outrageous and if I were a parent, I would sue! A diploma has been earned and should be issued! I am sure this does not comply with the district's policies. Many parents are witnessing the first children of their families graduate...certainly a cause for celebration. We are not talking about fireworks...we are talking abour cheers and freedom of speech and expression...first amendment rights! As an announcer, why not just wait a few seconds before announcing the next child's name? That seems to be a more reasonable approach. This is so idiotic...I don't have enough room in this comment box to say how ridiculous this is...and I hope the ACLU re-examines its position.

Scott McCall said...

i agree with anon.....it's a right to be able to express one's excitement through cheer. the child has already earned his or her diploma, so why should he or she have to do more work than all the other students? why should the student be punished for the parents actions?

oh wait....our discrict is punishing the students and facult at our school anyway with extended classes, instead of taking the punishment themselves. they just want to seem tough and powerful, and dont want to bear any consequences....panzies

rightwingprof said...

I understand the desire for decorum, but in the case of Indianapolis, I can understand cheering, given that the graduation for IPS is 26.2%.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with your comments.

Anonymous said...

In this case, graduation, silence is not golden, and should not be penalized..Shout it out I, He, she, or my son or daughter graduated

Anonymous said...

Hold the diploma yes but only for a week with nothing else required. The noise at graduations has become unbearable, unruly, and just plain stupid BUT should we really punish the graduated for something they had no control over? I think door checks for air horns and other noise makers would make more sense. Also, grow up America, this isn't a football game it's a dignified ceremony. It's time to reteach ourselves and learn some manners.

Anonymous said...

Horaay for this school's Superintentant and the staff.. The right's of many (other names being called) should never be trampled by "the feww" that think they are expmpt from the rules..The "rules" here were set by the school administrators well before the graduation..It is like speeding at 70 in a 50 zone to me..Why shouldn't the perpetrators be held responsible for their actions..

Anonymous said...

Have some class ! Cheering at a solemn occasion like graduation is trailor park trash !

Anonymous said...

High School Diploma.WOW ! They give them away even if one cannot read, write, or do simple math. I would be embarrassed to cheer like it is some accomplishment !

Anonymous said...

As a teacher I can see both sides of this issue. Families have a right to be joyous- it's a huge accomplishment in the student's life. But this is not to be turned into something like a professional wrestling event. Otherwise, you're just taking the audience hostage.

Pat said...

All the students should get their diplomas. Do not punish them for the rude and illiterate behavior of their friends and relatives. I deplore the use of the RACE card again and again. There are recordings of the disruptions and once you hear those recordings you will understand why those particular five disruptions were choosen. They were not simple "Yeah's" or loud applause but truly inapproppriate and rude to the entire graduating class. It is to bad the true participants of the disruptions cannot be held accountable but that's life and this graduating class just got a big dose of reality. GIVE THEM THEIR DIPLOMAS!

Anonymous said...

What type of message are we conveying to our children? It is very unfortunate the Galesburg school officials have resorted to "punishing" those students, who have worked hard and accomplished, what could possibly a first for their family. If the audience disrespected the event by acting if they were, as one reader put it, "at a strip joint or WWF event," then I would fully support the school official's actions. However, this was not the case. These were cheers of joy and admiration for their children's accomplishments. Personally, I think the school district (in question) is playing with a stacked deck. If all students who were cheered had their diplomas "held" up as originally planned, then it would be fair. However, this is not the case.

As a licensed educator for one of the largest school districts in the nation, I have witnessed the unprofessional conduct of school officials toward those students whose skin pigmentation happened to be a little bit different. Here is an example. I once saw and heard a teacher brag about making a young Hispanic student scrap gum off of the floors and clean garbage cans in her foods class, because the student could not afford to purchase items to do a project in that class. After speaking with school administrators the "janitorial" services, which by the way were done in front of her fellow students, were stopped. The sad part of the story is the student, who has never had any disciplinary issues, refuses to participate in her commencement exercises, because she knows of other students, who were not treated in this fashion as she was, for not turning in or doing projects. With this in mind, are the school officials trying to obtain free labor at the expense of those students and then label it by calling it "community service?" Have we resorted to becoming judge, jury and executioner? What happened to due process?

Please know I am not trying to make this an issue of color, but rather an issue of fairness. In the case of the Galesburg students and the student I mentioned above, I don't believe any of those students had control over the situation, i.e., someone shouting "hooray" from the audience, or a single working parent of six who couldn't afford materials for her daughter's project.

On the issue of the ACLU, it reminds me of a statement someone once said, "You can pick your friends, you can pick your nose, and you can pick your battles..., but be careful because the circumstances of "picking" can cause some type of embarrassment, depending upon where and when you do it. The ACLU should readdress their stance or find another line of work.

In closing, we as parents have always encouraged our children by praising their accomplishments as a toddler to this momentous occasion. May I remind everyone, this IS a time for celebration and NOT a funeral.

Best wishes to all 2007 high school grads across the nation.

Natural Consequences said...

Since when do we punish people for the actions of their relatives? or friends? What possible control could a high school OR COLLEGE graduate exert onto ANYONE in the audience? I can see it now- John hates Phillip- so John organizes a cheering section for Phillip's graduation and thereby gets Phillip denied a diploma. Has it really come to this folks? I for one would rather skip the whole ceremony and just have the stupid diploma mailed to me. Let's see the school have a ceremony where only 2 people show up....

JC Garrett said...

What kind of lesson is a child to learn from this nonsensical, authoritarian response? That even if he performs his duties in excellence every day for four long years, it can be negated in the space of five minutes, by the actions of others over which he has no control?

What power does the graduating student have that the school administrators do not have to control the crowd? The ACLU spokesman should remember that the school's ability to control the "decorum" at an event does not extend further than the boundaries of each individual's civil rights. That means the school must confine their actions to the persons that are in violation of the rules, and does not somehow magically transfer individual responsibility for someone else's actions to the student they cheer for.

Apply that skewed logic to other situations, and it quickly becomes clear just how idiotic the school's position is.

For example, at the next school board meeting, the superintendent rises to give a short speech. Every time he makes a good point, three citizens in the back of the room cheer and whistle loudly. So the local policeman in attendance grabs the superintendent by the arm and escorts him out of the building for disrupting the meeting.

Does that sound at all sensible to anyone with a pulse and the mental capacity of an eight year-old?

Or imagine what would happen at the next presidential debate in which the moderator, having asked the audience to hold its applause until the end of the debate, expelled one of the candidates because the crowd cheered at an especially good one-liner. The moderator would be considered extremely fortunate if he managed to avoid tar and feathering!

The bottom line is that most of the young people graduating are over 18, and considered adults with the full compliment of rights belonging to adults, in the eyes of the law. The school administrators, being accustomed to imposing their arbitrary will on children who are not considered to be endowed with the full set of rights that comes with adulthood, are showing just how arbitrary that power can be when it is wielded by authoritarians without conscience. They might get away with it in the classroom where children are subject to that arbitrary power, but the adults that walk across the stage, having earned the right to their diplomas, have also earned the right to never again be subject to the whim of arbitrary power.

They should exercise that right, and demand that they receive the diplomas they have earned, teaching the "educators" a lesson in the personal humility endemic to a free society.

Anonymous said...

I think that the anonymous that said 'Horaay for this school's Superintentant and the stff..' for one, cannot spell as good as a first grader and two, has very VERY bad perspection. He/She says that these people should be punished, but for what? So they're popular... that means a few people will cheer, now I'm not saying that there should always be cheering but i think if there is, the family/friends should be punished, it's like punishing a kid for playing. Why would the student have to do community service for gratuating? They have done their share of service by getting a diploma and then giving services to the economy! I'm outraged with this! It's just punishing someone for other peoples actions!

Anonymous said...

I think this case does present some issues. On the one hand, I don't see anything wrong with imposing and enforcing proper decorum at an event like this. It seems from what I've read about it, that drastic measures needed to be taken since it had previously gotten so VERY out of hand. The problem seems to be that they are punishing the students for the actions of others. I give credit to the Superintendent, school board or whoever for making the effort to restore decorum, etc. However, I'm left wondering if there isn't a better way. For the person who said "SUE!" wouldn't it have been easier just to contain ones enthusiasm than to dig ones heels into an already over-burdened legal system? Its not like the graduates are being denied a diploma, they are simply being made to wait.

Speaking of being "made to wait"..maybe they should do a "time out" every time people make excessive noise. Like take a pause of one minute the first time it happens..two minutes the next..three minutes the time after that, etc. The crowd will start to police itself.

Harold C said...

For all the evident short comings of this school,at least they kept their word,which is more than the so-called 'honor' student who gave her word of 'honor' that she would obey the rules. Her mother also gave her word of 'honor'. Evidently,these five families 'word' mean nothing. I think these five families have been given a valuable lesson in life: actions have consequences. What they do with this lesson is up to them. Hooray for the school!!

Anonymous said...

I have been to several graduations in the past few years, and find the yelling & carrying on distracting & annoying. It's about time that the schools start enforcing some kind of rules of conduct that enable all of the participants to enjoy the occasion. Plus the parents & students in Galesburg were put on notice & actually signed agreements to keep it down...so what's unfair about having consequences? I really think that we are a bunch of big babies.

Anonymous said...

It is appalling, to say the least, to deny a high school diploma to any kid who works hard to earn it. What kind of a rule is that?!This is NOT a solemn occasion, but a joyous one. If the cheering is too loud, then pump up the sound system - is that so hard? Jeeeeez!

Anonymous said...

You want me to think that no white family make noise for their kids, yeah, right. People let's get real.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing that while school officials and government cannot hire and keep competent teachers, cannot maintain adequately small class sizes conducive to successful learning, cannot balance their budgets, cannot pay their teachers fairly, cannot keep updated curricula and textbooks, cannot meet their increasing financial needs, cannot control the students within their rooms, and cannot keep American educational standards on par with the rest of the developed world, they still find time to deny the accomplishments of students. This is the haughtiness that perpetuates the horrible American stereotype throughout the world.

And officials wonder why parents want to pull their children out of public schools for alternative forms of education.

Lillian said...

I have had two teens graduate from High School in the last four years (2004 & 2006). I understand the historical significance among family members of a first generation grad, etc., but some of these parents are out of control. I have found myself dreading these commencement exercises, and the protocol has disappeared, and the entire ceremony reduced to a sporting event. It almost seems as if there is a competition among parents and friends, as to who can scream the loudest. Some of the students who have the cheering sections are students who barely made it, and they seem to really carry on...for minutes beyond the presentation of the diploma. I sat in front of a family that dumped a pound of confetti on most of us sitting near. Nice. But being the 'old-school' teacher that I am, find this to be a bit over the top.
I think this situation may get people thinking a bit more about the logical limits of their enthusiasm. Of course, I understand the young person who suggested that these displays could be used (by enemies) as a way of getting a fellow grad in trouble, and I'm not really in agreement that the grads are the ones who should be penalized.
But, just as in many other areas of public education, parents are in need of more contractual agreements in regards to their conduct and involvement with schools and school events.

Anonymous said...

When did graduation become a solemn occasion? It is a cause for celebration and a cheer or applause at the mention of a loved one's name is appropriate. The contracts and the attending punishment are absurd. The punish does not fit the crime, nor is it directed at the actual offender. However, while a graduation is a cause for celebration is is not a spectacle, and should attendees need to behave with a measure of decorum. Fireworks, airhorns and the like are inappropriate, just as they would be at most weddings and awards ceremonies. Arbitrary rules, regulations and mean spirited punishments are choking the vital spirit out of our young. Ejecting unruly guests is appropriate, periodically reminding guests that they should not let their enthusians for thier graduating child ruin it for others is also appropriate. Withholding a student's diploma when they have committed no wrong is inappropriate.

Bruce Shipley said...

They signed an agreement not to cheer!!

What, we don't honor our commitments? That a good lesson for the rest of your life!!

But then, like the student you like spoke to, had to say like "like" all the time, so like I can't see how they like will be able to like get on in life any how-like.

They agree-they should have done it.

Bruce Shipley

Anonymous said...

As a grandmother who has attended several H.S. graduations, If the rules are "no outbursts, etc" then that is the way it should be. I too could not hear the graduates names due to the loud screaming and outbursts. If the parents or friends want to throw a party after the graduation and scream and holler then that's ok. I agree that we must set an example for our children and grandchildren and adhere to the rules.

Texas Truth said...

Kudos to the administration for trying to maintain a bit of decorum at a graduation ceremony.

People need to know how to act in public. After all, they signed a contact to behave appropriately.

Ellen K said...

I think now any reader who isn't a teacher or administrator in a school can see evidence of the kind of mentality that pervades our society. Once again, people have gotten to the point that 'anything goes' and they have little respect for others in the audience or other graduates. Do the other graduates' families not have rights as well? Do the families who show reserve and manners deserve to have airhorns in their ears and banners in their way of seeing their own child graduate? It is as if these few gauche people have no consideration for others. And that comes down to basic decency and manners-which is an equal opportunity situation. I would no more allow this from a family of one ethnicity over another. As my mother liked to tell me "you are not the bellybutton of the universe." Sadly the way our society caters to the needs of the individual over the needs of the whole population have made us a society of mindless, selfish fools. I have seen all my kids graduate and we didn't hoop and holler for attention. And our kids struggled just as much as any other kid in school. What a shame anonymous feels the need to claim it is discriminatory when what it truly is is disruptive, disorderly and annoying.

Scott McCall said...

why dont we just get rid of public school, and send the students to a home education system. that way, each student has to follow the rules of whatever their parents make....and no one can further bitch about whatever, and schools will no longer be poked at by media

that was all sarcastic by the way.

but on a serious note....WE SHOULD BE FORTUNATE WE CAN EVEN HOLD EVENTS!!!!! go to a different country (like maybe russia, iraq, iran, or north korea) and see how their graduation events go compared to ours. oh wait, they rarely have any! let alone CO-ED! so just be happy your son or daughter even has a priviledge to walk across stage. as far as i know...that's probably the only time many graduates are even going to appear on stage.

if you're old, and cant hear your grandson/daughters name....MOVE CLOSER. if u dont want confetti on u, DONT SIT UNDER THE UPPER BALCONY! if you dont want whatever to happen, then DONT GO. either go and enjoy, or STOP BITCHING!

on a lighter note....can't we all just get along? :-D

Darren said...

There was a time, Scott, when there was such a thing as "public manners". In that time, I would have turned your comment around to say, "If you can't keep from acting like an imbecile, DON'T GO!" Apparently that concept died some time since Ronald Reagan's presidency, when I participated in my two graduation exercises.

The idea isn't to sit quietly and be Spartan, the idea is not to get too carried away to the point of overwhelming someone else's enjoyment of the event.

The school shouldn't withhold diplomas from students, but needs to come up with some other plan to police the behavior of people who think that they are, to use EllenK's term, "the bellybutton of the universe".

Erica said...

A number of years ago when I gratuated from high school my senior class was so small that we each wrote a one-sentence address that was read by the VP as we walked up.

Although it was expressly verboten to bring such things as airhorns, etc., many had them, and used them in such a way that many students statements were drowned out. I couldn't even hear my own name called because the popular student in front of me had such a loud "cheering section" complete with airhorns and bullhorns.

To my family's credit, I received polite applause that ended when I turned to walk from the stage area.

I agree with the school's decision. They need to use a punishment for disobeying their stated and agreed-to rules that has teeth. I hope they hold fast to their decision so it will discourage such behavior next year. I'm also going to refrain from crying over the 8 hours of shuffling papers for the district that the students can redeem themselves with. It will be a good introduction to what real-world work turns into.

Ellen K said...

Actually, that was my mom's phrase from when I was a thoughtless teenager. I think it still applies.

Ellen K said...

The irony of the situation is that these same people behaving like public fools would be outraged and protest to the media, their Congressman and possibly to God Himself if their own childrens' accomplishments weren't announced. What a shame we have grown into such a selfish and self-centered society.

Lillian said...

I think the key issue in this situation is the signing of a contract, and the subsequent breaking of that contract by people who either can't interpret the contract, didn't read it before they signed it, or who simply feel that contracts are meant to be broken.

We didn't 'bitch' about the confetti or the yelling or the outrageous behavior, when we attended either one of the graduation ceremonies, which every parent should attend. We actually accepted it as status quo.

However, since comments were solicited by Darren in response to this article, I decided to comment. I won't let idiotic behavior keep me from attending my children's graduation ceremonies, but I do have a right to my opinion about idiotic behavior at graduation ceremonies.

S.M. represents the status quo...and quite well, I might add.

I respect his right to be wrong.

mike said...

Ill behaved children learn their attitudes from their families. The school is right to control grown ups who act like idiots at a school function..maybe there will be a ripple effect that shows up in not only better future graduations but better behaved younger siblings. A good amendment to the policy would be to allow the student to designate a family member to serve the punishment. "Hey, grandma, your yelling cost me a diploma, so go sort some books so I can get it."

Lillian said...

A voice of reason. Thank you Mike!

Catch Thirty Thr33 said...

Having attended one...my own...am I the ONLY one who thinks that high school graduation is the most grossly overrated event in one's life? I thought so then, and life's experiences (like my getting commissioned) only confirm what I thought back then over and over and over.

Darren said...

It's a nice cultural rite of passage.