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'Not a sporting event': Excessive cheering hogs spotlight at high school graduations

KNTV's Jodi Hernandez reports on how students across the San Francisco Bay Area are preparing for one of the most important milestones in their lives, high school graduation.

Police arrest a South Carolina mother who cheered too loudly during her daughter’s high school graduation. Officials at one Ohio high school deny a star football player his diploma because of a crowd’s raucous applause. One Florida Catholic school temporarily withholds an athlete’s diploma because he “Tebowed” on stage.

Nationwide, schools are cracking down on the Class of 2012 at graduation ceremonies over behavior deemed inappropriate.

"People have to remember that graduation is a commencement exercise and not a sporting event," Ken Griffith, president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals in Reston, Va., told msnbc.com.


"I cannot say for certain that this has become a widespread problem, but I've seen graduation ceremonies go from a religious-like baccalaureate process to one of celebration," he said. "Every principal is trying to find that right balance for their community and for each student because who ever is on stage at any given moment, the person right behind them deserves to receive the same accolades from their family."

At Pinole Valley High School in Pinole, Calif., on Saturday, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents will be allowed to chant, cheer, clap and stomp when their seniors walk across the stage. But the school is drawing the line at air horns.

On the back of the graduation tickets, guests are told to respect speakers and remain in their seats, and they're given a reminder that "all noisemakers and balloons are prohibited."

No air horns at graduation: Read NBCBayArea.com’s report

NBC Bay Area

Charles Ramsey, president of West Contra Costa County School District, told NBCBayArea.com that he and others will remind parents to be respectful and check bags for noisemakers.

"The graduation police we're not going to be," he told NBCBayArea.com. "I understand some of the need to establish some protocols and limits. However, we don't want to lose sight of the reason why they are there ... to celebrate the accomplishment."

'She's going to go crazy'
Andrew Gonzales, an 18-year-old Pinole Valley High senior, will be speaking at graduation Saturday. He said he expects his family to be loud.

"My mom already told me … she's going to go crazy in the audience," Gonzales told NBCBayArea.com. "There's a lot of sentiment that goes along with a child graduating from high school and this marks the day when you transition from childhood to adulthood."

theGRIO: Why black people cheer louder at graduation ceremonies

The focus on graduation disruptions comes after a series of high-profile incidents.

Shannon Cooper was arrested by Florence, S.C.,  police for disorderly conduct on June 2. She had been whooping loudly when her daughter, Christin Iesha Cooper, was called to receive her diploma at South Florence High School.

Cooper told msnbc.com she felt humiliated by the arrest.

Florence Police Chief Anson Shells defended the officer's actions, maintaining Cooper's shouting was nothing short of disorderly conduct.

Shells said people attending the ceremony had been warned to behave during commencement.

“The school district made an announcement and sent out letters to all of the parents for everyone to be as orderly as they can during the ceremony and so on and so forth,” Shells told msnbc.com on Tuesday. “That was the rule.”

SC mom busted at kid's graduation: 'I cheered for my baby and I got the cuffs'

In late May, Anthony Cornist was denied his diploma from Mt. Healthy Senior High School in Cincinnati because of his family's "excessive" cheering at the ceremony. The superintendent told news outlets that it was the prolonged duration of the cheers that halted the ceremony and kept other families from hearing their children's names from being announced.

In a policy implemented this year, parents agreed not to engage in "any disruptive behavior." And if there was such behavior, the policy stated, a child's diploma would be held until he or she could complete 20 hours of community service.

"I don't understand how he's being punished for something he has no control over. I just thought that was ludicrous," his mother, Traci Cornist, told WCPO-TV in Cincinnati.

On May 19, 17-year-old Chuck Shriner got in trouble for “Tebowing” during the Bishop Verot Catholic High School commencement in Fort Myers, Fla., on May 19, the Naples Daily News reported.

The audience burst into laughter, but school faculty -- including his mother, a math teacher at the private school – didn’t find the stunt amusing because school officials had discouraged students from acting out during the ceremony.

Upon his mother’s request, Shriner was ordered to clean up the gym to earn back of his diploma.

'Parents are appropriately joyous'
In the Bay Area, schools in Oakland, Berkeley, Santa Clara, Fremont, Milpitas and Cupertino do not expressly spell out how pride can be emoted at graduations. And many local school leaders thought an outright ban on cheering was downright ludicrous.

"Our parents are appropriately joyous," Palo Alto Unified District Superintendent Kevin Skelly told NBCBayArea.com.

Gonzales, the Pinole Valley High valedictorian, said he expected his mother to be emotional at his graduation and that was appropriate: "She should be able to cheer however she wants to."

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