Both sides of a high school graduation flap in Cincinnati appear to be digging in their heels.
Mt. Healthy City Schools Superintendent Lori Handler responded Tuesday to anger expressed by the family of Anthony Cornist, who was denied his diploma because of excessive cheering during the ceremony.
Instead of a diploma, Cornist was given a letter from the principal stating he and/or his family needed to complete 20 hours of community service before he could receive his diploma from Mt. Healthy Senior High School.
Superintendent Lori Handler said the family's cheering disrupted the ceremony, which was held at the Vineyard Community Church May 24.
In video of the ceremony, cheering erupts when Cornist's name is read, slowing the reading of more names.
"We had four families unfortunately, who were excessive, and we had to stop graduation," Handler said.
Each time, commencement resumed after the cheering died down.
"Had I not said to the people who were calling names, 'Stop,' the succeeding child's name would not have been heard," Handler said.
Handler contends the volume of the cheers isn't the issue, but the duration of the cheering was the problem.
"In years past, we have had students whose families got over-exuberant and the child behind them's name could not be heard when they were called," Handler said. "So I feel very strongly that we will stop graduation, because every child's name will be heard and every family will be able to celebrate appropriately."
Handler said the vast majority of graduation attendees were respectful.
"I can't tell you how many families said to me, 'Thank you so much. I was so fearful I wouldn't hear my child's name called,'" Handler said. "Parents did know all this information up front. They signed off, saying I understand that this is what's going to happen."
Handler said the Cornists signed the agreement with the school to conduct themselves appropriately. Traci Cornist, Anthony's mother, said that if she signed it, she never read it.
She claims she was unaware of the policy, even thought she admitted to posting a message to Facebook stating, "We showed so much Support...That maybe we are about to be escorted out the building...Who cares my baby just graduated!"
Whether the document or holding a student responsible for the actions of others is legal is not clear.
"Legally, he has graduated and he will receive his diploma," Handler said. "That's not an issue at all. This is just a rule, an expectation that we set and we expect the parents to follow through on it."
The students themselves were never an issue, Handler said.
Both Traci Cornist and her son argued that if he did nothing wrong, he shouldn't be punished. Handler said that perhaps the family can fulfill the community service.
"Certainly, if they want to talk to (Mt. Healthy Senior High School Principal) Mr. Styles about that, and they want to fulfill that, I'm sure that we could work that out," Handler said.
Traci Cornist said she was unwilling to do that.
Anthony Cornist said he is worried the fact that he doesn't have a physical diploma could affect future employment and college plans. Handler fears that dropping the community service would send a bad message.
"I think it's lessons learned in terms of proper decorum," Handler said.
Excessive cheering has been a complaint over the years at Indianapolis Public Schools graduation proceedings. In 2007, the school system devised a plan to kick out parents or relatives who cheered too loudly.
Three people were removed from a graduation ceremony at Arsenal Tech that year.
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