ANY high school senior who meets all the requirements for graduation should get a diploma. Too bad the uptight school officials at a high school in Galesburg, Ill., didn't get the memo. They refused to give diplomas to students who were cheered by some in an audience of 2,000 at graduation.
The school is withholding five diplomas because someone, no doubt families and friends, disregarded instructions and cheered for their teenagers at the May 27 commencement. At a meeting Tuesday, students were again denied diplomas because no one apologized to officials for the cheers. Initially the youngsters were also told that to get their diplomas, they had to complete eight hours of public service.
Excuse us? The graduates met all the necessary requirements, and because they were cheered, the school is treating them like criminals? Yes, students were told they could be denied diplomas if their families applauded and cheered. They were even forced to sign contracts agreeing to keep the ceremony "dignified."
A certain amount of pomp and circumstance should be part of every graduation ceremony. It's a momentous occasion and worthy of solemnity. But it's also a joyous celebration. If parents and uncles and aunts want to salute their graduate with applause and cheers, they should have that right. If the cheers would make it difficult to hear the name of the next student in the procession across the stage, school officials could just wait a few extra seconds. Graduations are long and drawn-out anyway.
Galesburg is being labeled racist, too, since of the five students denied their diplomas, four are black and one is Hispanic. There are allegations that white families also cheered, but weren't penalized. Will the American Civil Liberties Union get involved? The ACLU says no, not if the edict is equitably enforced. There seems to be some question about that.
In any event, what happened in Illinois is far different from the current controversy in Toledo Public Schools. Students here who were denied diplomas and marching rights had not met academic requirements.
So let graduates have their 15 seconds of fame. They've certainly earned it. And if it means allowing a few proud relatives to blow off a little steam, let 'em.