Archive for Saturday, June 2, 2007

No diploma for 5 Illinois students who broke graduation cheering ban

June 2, 2007


— Caisha Gayles graduated with honors last month, but she is still waiting for her diploma. The reason: the whoops of joy from the audience as she crossed the stage.

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.

About a month before the May 27 ceremony, Galesburg High School students and their parents had to sign a contract promising to act in a dignified way. Violators were warned they could be denied their diplomas and barred from the after-graduation party.

Many schools across the country ask spectators to hold applause and cheers until the end of graduation. But few of them enforce the policy with what some in Galesburg say are strong-arm tactics.

"It was like one of the worst days of my life," said Gayles, who had a 3.4 grade-point average and officially graduated but does not have the keepsake diploma to hang on her wall. "You walk across the stage and then you can't get your diploma because of other people cheering for you. It was devastating, actually."

School officials in Galesburg, a working-class town of 34,000 that is still reeling from the 2004 shutdown of a 1,600-employee refrigerator factory, said the get-tough policy followed a 2005 commencement where hoots, hollers and even air horns drowned out much of the ceremony and nearly touched off fights in the audience when the unruly were asked to quiet down.

"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."

The issue has taken on added controversy with accusations that the students were targeted because of their race: four are black and one is Hispanic. Parents say cheers also erupted for white students, and none of them was denied a diploma.

Principal Tom Chiles said administrators who monitored the 2,000-seat auditorium reported only disruptions they considered "significant," and all turned in the same five names.

"Race had absolutely nothing to do with it whatsoever," Chiles said. "It is the amount of disruption at the time of the incident."


Sigmund 11 years ago

If this holds I bet money fewer people break the rules at next years graduation.

Bill Chapman 11 years ago

Sounds like Galesburg High School officals have a large wooden pole stuffed where the sun don't shine.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years ago

yeah punish the kids for the parents behavior makes a lot of sense.

denak 11 years ago

I agree that the high school has a right to set some rules of conduct. It is sad that some people can not restrain themselves so that the ceremony can proceed quickly and in a dignified manner. There is no reason to have blast horns at an indoor graduation.

But I think this punishes the student for other people's conduct. The child works four years and is then denied his or her diploma, not because of something they did, but because of something other people did. That is just wrong!

Also, this "contract" isn't a contract at all in the legal sense. It was more of a notice. I don't see why the school officials could not have come at on the stage prior to the ceremony and made a plea to the audience to keep quiet. They could also have sent home a notice of everything that was not allowed in the auditorium and they could have enforced that rule as people entered the auditorium. If someone had a blast horn and used it during the ceremony, they could have been ticketed or asked to leave. Usually a person will calm down if you tell them nicely that if they don't leave, or give up their blast horn, you will have an offier escort them out.

That is still an extreme but at least it would get the point across and the student would still get his or her diploma.

Lastly, this is a high school graduation. This is the defininig milestone for teenagers in our country. Telling parents to not clap or cheer is ridiculous. This isn't a funeral. It is a celebration and people should be allowed to cheer. And people are going to so the school needs to realistically look at how they are going to approach this issue rather than use coericive measure that punish the wrong people.


auturgy 11 years ago

No one whooped and hollered for me when I graduated (all too polite, I guess). I felt left out! Cheer away!

Aileen Dingus 11 years ago

I agree that graduations get out of hand, but this is absurd. To punish the student for the behavior of others isn't correct. Like the one girl said- what if someone didn't like her and yelled just to get her in trouble?

Nobody has control over anyone but him or herself. Yes- you can ASK that Uncle Willie not whoop it up, but ultimately, it's up to Uncle Willie to monitor his own actions. Expecting a teenager to take the fall for adults' actions is wrong.

pelliott 11 years ago

Well sometimes school administrators lose their minds and perspective. Maybe over exposure to loose hormones. Three years ago the prinicipal at Free State start the formal graduation ceremonies with a really nasty speech, basicly said, that everyone should sit down and shut up, rude and crude. Some adults, well me, booed. I know he really meant it but as a formal speech it lacked, respect for who he was speaking to. I saw a cnn interview, where the reporter repeated tried to get one of the denied graduates to blame the people who cheered. The girl was very restrained. she just kept say, she had followed the instructions and had not done anything, Then the reporter asked who she thought had yelled out, and the bright little girl said she wasn't sure and was paying attention to what she was suppose to do, shake hands, how to exit. If you want crowd control, start with courtesy and not being hysterical yourself.

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