Caisha Gayles, above, graduated with honors but was deprived of her diploma as she walked across the stage because her supporters cheered too loudly. She was waiting to graduate in this photo.
Galesburg High School in Galesburg, Illinois last month required graduating students and parents to sign a contract promising to act in a “dignified way” at commencement and not to make too much noise, under penalty of graduates being denied their diplomas and barred from the graduation party. Evidently past commencement exercises have become too rowdy and parents have complained that they couldn’t hear their kids’ names read.
At graduation exercises this year the families of five students were collared by administrators monitoring the graduation for cheering too loudly. Four of the families were black, one was Hispanic. “Race had absolutely nothing to do with it,” said the Principal, Tom Chiles. RIGHT. The parents say white families also cheered for their students and not a one was penalized for it.
The students have all technically graduated, but they can’t get their diplomas unless they do eight hours of public service work.
As one of the penalized students asked, how can she help it if people cheer for her? Somebody could cheer for her just to get her in trouble! Even if the students and parents signed the contract, all of the family members and friends who showed up did not.
Everything about this situation stinks to high heaven– that the students were all black or Hispanic and the doltish Principal says it wasn’t racism. That parents and family members are punished for their understandable happiness over their children graduating. That it doesn’t seem to occur to anyone that families of color have MORE REASON TO CHEER because their students have had FAR MORE OBSTACLES TO OVERCOME to successfully graduate than the students of white families. That there were probably more family members present to witness the graduations of the students of color than were present to witness the graduations of white students. One reason students of color succeed, when they succeed, is, they have a lot of family and community support which serves to offset the destructiveness of the racism they experience.
I sincerely hope some administrative heads roll over this, but I doubt they will and that is just wrong.