Graduation is an exciting time. But Senatobia District Superintendent Jay Foster would rather you keep that excitement bottled up, at least until every student has graduated.
Foster enacted some strict rules, requiring parents to be quiet and respectful during graduation, shortly after he took the job. He felt it was necessary as the ceremony back then resembled an episode of the Jerry Springer Show, Fox News reported.
“There was yelling and catcalling and people would get up and leave while we were calling out students’ names. A family came up to me afterwards and said they had enjoyed their 12 years here but it was a shame that their last impression of Senatobia High School was graduation. They didn’t even get to see their daughter or hear their daughter because of all the noise and the way people acted.”
At Senatobia’s graduation last month — the district is in Mississippi — four proud family members did not keep their excitement to themselves, which isn’t at all surprising. Ursula Miller was one of them; she shouted her niece’s name when she hit the stage, knowing that as per policy, she would be escorted from Senatobia’s graduation, the Associated Press reported.
Applause and other expressions of joy are supposed to be saved for the end of the ceremony.
Mississippi: #50 in education. #1 in arresting proud family members at high school graduation #Senatobia
— Eric Levai (@ericlevai) June 4, 2015
WHITE PEOPLE Watch. http://t.co/pMCxSNLpfT This made me cry. Why should they be arrested for CELEBRATING HS graduation of their children?
— Amy (@AmyStephen) June 4, 2015
Unbelievable. Superintendent needs to feel some heat. Warrants issued for people who cheered at Senatobia graduation http://t.co/SNbyv4qsdy
— nicole (@floresne) June 4, 2015
She and three others were asked to leave, as expected. But so serious is Foster about his policies that he filed misdemeanor disturbing the peace charges against Miller and the other three, which could carry a $500 fine and up to six months in jail.
“It’s crazy,” one of those charged, father of one graduate Henry Walker, told WREG. “The fact that I might have to bond out of jail, pay court costs, or a $500 fine for expressing my love, it’s ridiculous man. It’s ridiculous.”
But Senatobia’s superintendent sure doesn’t think it’s ridiculous. He’s dead serious, and he’s not backing down one bit. People who yell and carry on at graduation detract attention from the students getting their diplomas and make graduation undignified, he contends. He gives a much more detailed account of Walker, Miller, and the other two’s behavior, as well.
“They would get up and move around the coliseum and holler out – knowing someone was coming to get them – but basically they were saying to us, ‘There’s nothing you can do – we’re going to disrupt it anyway. It was a blatant disregard for authority.”
He filed the charges because he wants people who balk at authority to pay the consequences for their actions. And it’s his way of righting what he sees as a wrong not just at Senatobia high, but society as a whole.
“Everything is about ‘me.’ ‘I have a right to disrupt if it’s for my child.'”
Regardless of who yelled and how loudly, Miller said her behavior was simply an expression of pride for her niece, plain and simple.
“That’s what we do in our family, is we celebrate this occasion. She deserved that cheer and I would do it again.”
[Photo Courtesy Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]