The high school in Galesburg, Illinois apparently thinks it’s the soup nazi from Seinfield. The administrators have decided not to award diplomas to five of the kids who graduated – because they didn’t like how the audience was cheering for them.
Were these kids’ constitutional rights violated? No. Was the school doing anything illegal? Probably not. Did the audience know the consequences of making a lot of noise during the ceremony? Yes.
Does any of that make it OK for the school to demand 8 hours of community service in order for these 5 kids to earn their diplomas? Absolutely not.
The school administrators decided to implement a standard of conduct at the graduation ceremony so that they would not have to manage a disruptive crowd. Apparently, the year before, the crowd was so loud, it was next to impossible to hear names being called.
So, their solution – try to control all the kids, their parents, their friends and everyone in the audience by punishing the student in front of the entire room. Five times they did this. Publicly humiliating former students in order to control the behavior of a group.
I understand that they needed a solution. Unruly crowds can make an unfun procedure like graduation even more unfun. But really, these are school administrators. They are guiding the education of our children. Couldn’t they come up with a better solution than public humiliation and withholding the paper that says a child has graduated?
First of all, public humiliation is not an effective mechanism for controlling behavior. If anything, it will make people angry and or over-excited. And the next year, the juniors who will be graduating will be less likely to trust the administration. Perhaps they will ask for a copy before, or make a plan for every single person to get a huge applause, or some other such thing. Haven’t these administrators been around high schoolers? They don’t just sit back and go “Ok Mr. administrator, we’ll behave so you won’t humiliate us.” They don’t care.
And for the girl that is upset she didn’t get her diploma – big friggin’ deal. Walk away. Show them how much this doesn’t work by saying, “I don’t need your piece of paper.” And really, how many people even know where their high school diploma is? If they do, how often does it come out of the dusty file folders in the garage? 8 hours of service to get the paper? Not worth it. Hours and hours of deliberation and interviews and working with a lawyer and all that comes with using legal action to make the school change their minds? Not worth it.
Shake your head at the school, girlfriend, then move on, homeschool when you have your own kids, and use this as a wonderful story on how you made your decision.
I think an easier solution for the school would have been to 1) give a reminder at the beginning of the ceremony (and even a reminder that the kids could take home with their graduation information) 2) if the crowd went nuts, stop the ceremony and wait until it’s quiet before calling out the next name, reminding the audience, again, to keep the cheers short, and 3) allowing an extra hour or two in the schedule to accommodate the yelling.
But, this whole thing is not about the students. It’s about a process. Getting the kids through as effeciently and quickly as possible, with as little fanfare as possible. If it were about the kids, then each and every kid who crossed the stage would be appreciated, and allowed their moment to be cheered by their loved ones. But it’s not about them – it’s about the process. The system. Even in perhaps the most important day for many of these kids, it’s still more about what the school administration needs than what benefits the kids.
At least at Galesburg High School.