Disrupting Graduation

It’s a time for Sir Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance.  It’s a time for formal dances and the robes of academia.  For many, it signifies the end of childhood and the start of their adult life.  Graduation from high school is no minor event and should be treated with the reverence it deserves.  In Duncan, South Carolina, school officials and law enforcement are serious about making sure that’s the case.

At Byrnes High School in Duncan, attendees of the graduation ceremonies are warned twice to refrain from disruptive behaviour during the formal proceedings; a warning is also published in the program.  And yet, 14 people had to be cited for failing to contain their enthusiasm.  Yes, for cheering for their child, 14 people were given a $262 ticket.

“As a district and student body, we want the graduation ceremony to be very dignified,” said Spartanburg School District spokesman Bobby Bentley.  Apparently, that means having cops standing around in the crowd waiting to pounce on anyone having a good time and celebrating at a, well, celebration.  Bentley was uncertain where the line was drawn between a polite and dignified response such as clapping and a ticket-worthy reaction.

“In years past, we would not charge people,” said Duncan Police Chief Ryan Cothran. “We would just escort them out of the stadium, but people would stand up, cheer loudly then walk out of the stadium. We started ticketing them three years ago to stop that from happening.”  Heaven forbid anyone perform an act of civil obedience.

Of course, it can be difficult to hear the name of a graduating student if the audience is still cheering for the last one; nonetheless, it seems to me that the best course of action would be to put the ceremony on hold until the noise dies down and when people start complaining about the length, remind them to cut back on the cheering.  Or simply cancel the ceremony all together.  Posting police officers in the crowd to control disruptions, however, seems a bit extreme.  What do you think?

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