The Clover High School graduation ceremony was held at the Winthrop Coliseum on June 7. While walking toward the entrance door, I noticed people being turned away at the door, not allowed to enter.
Why, I asked myself, so I asked a dejected individual walking back to his car, who had recently been turned away. He explained, "I am not allowed to wear blue jeans." Government officials are enforcing a dress code policy at the door. No shorts, no jeans!
I felt compassion for this individual and pondered, is this legal? Is this a violation of law? This is, after all, a public building, public event paid with this individual's tax money. Clearly, the school officials can recommend a dress code and the majority would comply, but to turn away a father from seeing his daughter or son graduate for wearing blue jeans, this is absurd.
What if this man had only one pair of blue jeans in his closet, should he be penalized and embarrassed at a public graduation ceremony. He was not alone; all counted, I would estimate 75 to 100 people denied access to the graduation event.
The fundamental issue is freedom of expression, a First Amendment guarantee providing it is not disruptive to others.
Blue jeans and neatly pressed dress shorts clearly are not disruptive in nature. If we allow government officials to dictate the clothes we wear for a public event today, what might they dictate next?
Many police officers
After I spoke to the dejected man, I walked in and sat in my seat awaiting the start of the graduation ceremony. Midway through the event, I looked around the arena and noticed an alarming presence of police officers. All in all, I counted 24.
What was perplexing was 10 or so officers were positioned on ground level perimeter looking up at the crowd, positioned every 25 feet or so. I wondered why they didn't turn and face the stage while the ceremony was taking place. I concluded their job was crowd control. The police officers stood, statuelike, stoic, almost robot-like, hawking the crowd, scanning for that forbidden errant, out-of-order hand clap or cheer. The remaining police officers were stationed at the stadium's exits one per exit.
Diplomas handed out
Finally, the diplomas began to be handed out. This was crunch time, the temptation to clap or let out a "Way to go, Johnny" was on a hair trigger, possibly setting off a chain reaction, a Jerry Springer-like frenzy. The police officers who once were stationed at the exits redeployed their positions, walking down the stands, stopping midway, turning away from the stage and directing their sight on the crowd. I couldn't believe what I was witnessing. All those pairs of eyes scanning to crowd continually for two hours.I was witnessing a 1984-style police-state action unfolding before my eyes.
At last, all diplomas were handed out and permission was finally granted to let go. The crowd erupted, cheering, caps flying, hugs exchanged, total jubilation. The police officers who had once been fixated on crowd now turned toward the stage, having completed their assignment -- code name "Operation Handclap and Cheering Lockdown."
This type of militant security tactic is what one would encounter in a communist dictatorial country, not in the United States.
I encountered many other attendees who had like-minded reservations concerning these heavy-handed government actions taken at the Clover High School graduation ceremony. Clearly, this need not happen next year
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