Joann Mobley Gordon wants to cheer Friday night when her son, a member of the Rock Hill High class of 2006, walks across the graduation stage at Winthrop Coliseum. Just like people did for her in the Rock Hill High Class of 1975.
She won't. Because if she "disrupts the ceremony," as a letter home to parents stated, this mother, who has nurtured her son through 13 years of homework and picked him up when he failed and fell, could get locked up. Arrested.
"I only have one child, my son, and I wish I could cheer," she said. "But the school says I can't. Maybe I have to practice being quiet. Tape myself down."
Mrs. Mobley Gordon, I wish you could clap until your palms hurt.
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Both Rock Hill high schools sent home letters with seniors stating that removal or arrest could result from celebrating during graduates' walk across the stage. No "howling or use of noisemakers ... Everyone should remain quiet and seated during the entire program," states the Northwestern High letter.
All area schools discourage clapping or cheering until the last of as many as 500-plus students gets a diploma.
So schools encourage a funeral procession.
In Fort Mill, parents read guidelines that state: "If a disruption occurs, the offending party will be removed and asked to provide security with identifying information, including address."
Presumably not to send a graduation card with a check inside.
"This also includes audience members that choose to disrupt and then leave," the guidelines continue. Fort Mill police officers, three of them, will be assigned to assist campus police at the Winthrop Coliseum on Saturday night, a district spokesman said.
Maybe people will feel safer that a bevy of cops are at the ready to tell a blue-haired granny, or a burly truck driver whose daughter is the first in his family to graduate from high school, to sit on their hands.
Some like the quiet
A lot of smart people believe the quiet way is the right way. Asking loved ones not to clap ensures that every student's name can be heard. And any student who doesn't have a cheering section doesn't feel left out.
Rock Hill schools came up with guidelines in the late 1990s with student input, said district spokesperson Elaine Baker. One student who did a cartwheel across the stage was among the last straws.
Graduation is a "celebration," but also a "somber moment," Baker said.
What is somber about a kid finishing high school in a state where almost as many don't? What is solemn about parents who have put aside everything to shuttle the kid back and forth to play practice or stay up at night to check homework or take a second job to pay for music lessons?
These schools ought to be howling to the moon over successes.
Don't ruin the fun for others
Of course, boneheads blow it for everybody. In Clover about seven years ago, a teen in the audience thumped his chest like Tarzan and had to be escorted out, said Clover High School Principal Ron Wright. Wright asks the audience to be dignified. A "cultural void" prompts some people to act out at ceremonies like graduation, Wright said.
At the end of the ceremony, Wright urges the whole gymnasium to cheer.
"That benefits everybody," Wright said.
Kathy Blackwelder, who has a daughter graduating from Northwestern, agrees. So do Rock Hill High grandparent Maggie Oxendine, parent Linda Morris and so many others. Many, most, agree that courtesy to all is more important than cheers.
"I want to hear my child's name, and every other parent does, too," Blackwelder said. "It's not a big deal to wait until the end."
Mallory and Michael Pettengill of Fort Mill High School will walk across the stage Saturday. Their father, Merle Pettengill, died in a motorcycle wreck last year. Both seniors and their mom have no problem with not clapping, and their father wouldn't have had a problem, either.
"I want to clap," Kathleen Pettengill said. "But every child's name should be heard. Without the rules, there would be total chaos."
Michael Pettengill knows the kid behind him in alphabetical graduating order, Christopher Dale Pettit.
"I'm sure his family wants to hear his name after mine," Michael Pettengill said.
Tough to argue against any of those reasons.
Yet Rock Hill High graduating senior Tierrah Robinson said people who want to cheer "shouldn't have to worry about being arrested."
One offense may be more serious than potential arrest. Robinson sat through her sister's graduation three years ago.
"Boring!" she said.
For all those parents who agree with the policy of the schools and sit silently, I salute your restraint and care for others. Every kid deserves recognition.
But if that blue-haired granny cheers, if the burly truck driver who got home from a long haul to watch his daughter walk wants to holler, I clap with them.
Just don't call me asking for bail money.