Seven arrested for cheering during local graduations

Adam O'DanielJune 10, 2008 

Seven people were arrested for cheering at high school graduations over the weekend, according to police reports.

Six individuals were arrested Saturday morning during Fort Mill High School's commencement ceremony at Winthrop Coliseum. Another man was arrested at the York Compre- hensive High School commencement on Friday morning, also at the Winthrop Coliseum, according to Rock Hill police reports.

"I just thought they were going to escort me out," said Jonathan Orr, 21, who stood up and yelled, "Monty!" for his cousin, Montel Orr, when his name was called at York's ceremony. "I had no idea they were going to put handcuffs on me and take me to jail."

Following a growing trend at high schools around the country, Fort Mill and York school officials asked Rock Hill police to monitor the graduation ceremonies and enforce the rules limiting cheers for individual graduates. District officials said the rule is in place to prevent loud cheers from drowning out the reading of the next graduate's name. Attendees were warned verbally and in writing that loud celebrations during the presentation of diplomas were strictly prohibited, the reports state.

In each instance, the suspects cheered for a specific graduate when his or her name was called. After their outburst, the suspects were taken into police custody and charged with public disorderly conduct. One man pulled away from an officer during the arrest and also was charged with resisting police.

The other six people arrested at the ceremonies ranged in age from 19 to 42.

Last year, three men were arrested for cheering for a graduate during the Fort Mill ceremony.

Russell Booker, superintendent of York schools, said family and friends are encouraged to cheer at designated times during the ceremony. But cheering for individual graduates often "gets out of hand" and overshadows the accomplishments of others, he said.

"The goal is to keep the graduation ceremony dignified so that every name is heard," Booker said. "I can tell you the next 30 seconds after that outburst made it so no one was paying any attention to the next two names that were called. Everyone was looking at the commotion in the audience."

Fort Mill school officials could not be reached Monday.

Booker said he didn't have details of the agreement with police available Monday, but he believes arrests are made at the discretion of police.

"Our goal is to remove the distractions," he said.

Rock Hill police officials could not be reached for comment on the policy Monday.

Orr, arrested Friday, said he sat in a jail cell for almost two hours until his sister could come pay $255 to bail him out. He will appear in court June 26.

Orr disagrees with the no-cheering policy.

"For some people, it might be the only member of their family to graduate high school," he said, "and it was like a funeral in there."

Adam O'Daniel • 329-4069

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