CINCINNATI — A suburban Cincinnati high school held onto four graduates' diplomas and required community service as punishment for what it describes as overly boisterous cheering by their families during the graduation ceremony.
The mother of one of the graduates, who was one of the leading tacklers on the Mount Healthy school football team, doesn't think he should get flagged for excessive celebration.
"What does that have to do with him?" Traci Cornist told Cincinnati radio station WDBZ.
She doesn't dispute there was a lot of loud cheering for Anthony Cornist. Cornist also said she teaches her children to be accountable for their own actions, but she doesn't think he should be punished for what other people do.
"It took away so much from how happy I was," she said. "It makes absolutely no sense."
Schools Superintendent Lori Handler said Wednesday the problem wasn't the loudness of the yells, but their long duration, which she said halted the ceremony.
After past disruptions, a new policy was implemented this year aimed at making sure that all parents can hear their children's names called and celebrated. When they ordered graduation tickets, parents agreed that "any disruptive behavior" would result in their child's diploma being held until 20 hours of community service is completed, she said.
"Our whole push for this was to make sure that every single student's name is heard and recognized," Handler said, adding that that most parents are pleased with the new rules. "Everybody understands that upfront."
Four seniors, of the 205 who went through graduation May 23, were denied their diplomas, she said. When they went to school to pick them up, they got a letter from the principal informing them it was being withheld because of "excessive cheering" by their guests.
The students are considered legal graduates, and are free to use their transcripts as they apply for college or jobs, Handler said.
Local school boards in Ohio have policymaking powers governing such things as guests' graduation ceremony conduct, and schools also sometimes hold diplomas until fees are paid, books returned or other issues are resolved.
Handler said the school was "very flexible" about how the students can complete the service, whether it's helping other students, cleaning up around the school or doing something for their communities. Also, other family members can perform service on behalf of the student.
She said the other penalized students aren't resisting, and that one had already completed community service to receive a diploma. She declined to release names or other information on them.
Cornist said Anthony is the second of her seven children to graduate from Mount Healthy, and she has another daughter due to graduate next year, so she's not looking for a big fight with the school. But she's very proud of her son and thinks he deserves his diploma.
"I want him to have it, and he shouldn't have to do anything," she told WDBZ on Tuesday. "He's a good kid. ... We'll see. I'm praying on it."
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