Andrew Dys

Should cheering be allowed at York County high school graduations?

Should cheering be allowed at York County high school graduations? Columnist Andrew Dys says yes. York County’s four school districts continue to say no.
Should cheering be allowed at York County high school graduations? Columnist Andrew Dys says yes. York County’s four school districts continue to say no. Andy Burriss aburriss@heraldonli

Thursday night kicks off seven York County high school graduations over three days. This means hours and hours of almost total silence at the Winthrop Coliseum – with one cheer at the end of each ceremony.

An event that should be joyous, wonderful – after a kid spends 13 years following rules and parents stayed up late countless night to help with homework – as quiet as a funeral. Everyone gets to sit like statues.

York County’s four school districts ban cheering when graduates names are called. Only one cheer is allowed at the end.

Are York County schools right for not allowing cheering when names are called on the biggest day of the year for thousands of families?

Of course not. The policy is stupid.

Last year, only one person was arrested after being removed for cheering at the Fort Mill High School graduation and a subsequent argument with police. But in the past decade, several people have been arrested for cheering before the policy was changed to first remove people who cheer, then only clamp on the cuffs if the person continues to make a scene.

The policy is so strict that in 2011, Allen Brandon cheered for his daughter to honor the dying wish of his wife. He was escorted out – wheelchair and all. But it was worse in 2008, when Brandon and seven others left in chains.

Clover High starts the county’s parade of graduations Thursday night, followed by York, Nation Ford and Fort Mill on Friday, and Northwestern, South Pointe and Rock Hill on Saturday.

The school districts have a policy, and the Winthrop University police officers and off-duty Rock Hill cops who are hired to provide security follow that policy, Winthrop Police Chief Frank Zebedis said. If someone cheers after an individual’s name is announced, that person will be escorted out by a cop carrying a badge and gun.

“We don’t want to arrest anyone,” Zebedis said. “Our intent is not to arrest anyone.”

The schools claim not allowing cheers for individuals makes for a ceremony in which all names can be heard in an atmosphere that promotes decorum and respect for others in a ceremony that moves along quickly without interruptions.

But Winthrop University does not ban cheering at its commencement exercises in the same arena, and its ceremony has no trouble. Some North Carolina high schools also rent Winthrop Coliseum for graduation, and cheering is allowed.

Will 2015 be another year of York County making national news for arresting people for cheering at graduation?

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065 •  adys@heraldonline.com

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