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Attending a graduation? Keep your cheers to yourself

Three people in Mississippi faced charges of disturbing the peace, with possible $500 fines and even six months in jail for shouting a graduate's name at a Senatobia High School graduation last month.

“We were instructed to remove anyone that cheered during the ceremony, which was done,” Zabe Davis, the chief of the campus police and a Senatobia High alumnus, told the New York Times last week. “And then Jay Foster, the superintendent, came and pressed charges against those people.”

On Friday, Senatobia school Superintendent Jay Foster held his ground in a phone interview, reported by the Christian Science Monitor. His aim, he said, was to make sure that some people don't disturb the experience for others, noting that in past years shouting for graduates would prevent the name being heard for the next.

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"I think graduation should be a solemn occasion," he said. "It should have some dignity and decorum, and at the end we'll celebrate together."

"The First Amendment of the United States Constitution clearly prohibits the making of any law that would impede the freedom of speech," Mississippi ACLU Legal Director Charles Irvin said in a statement, ABC reported. "Citizens should be able to enjoy the right of free speech, especially at a congratulatory event, like a high school graduation. The cheering by the family does not qualify as a disturbance of the peace and should not have elicited a criminal response."

It's on ongoing issue, as generations of students and families have been urged to hold cheering till the end of a ceremony, and a small number of people in each such ceremony have disregarded the plea.

In 2012, an Ohio School had an innovative approach. The school withheld the diploma of a student whose family cheered too loud, saying the would only release it after the student did 20 hours of community service.

"I will be holding your diploma in the main office due to the excessive cheering your guests displayed during the roll call," said principal Marlon Styles, Jr. in a letter to the student, as reported by Gawker.

The mother insisted that he would not be performing the service.

In South Carolina that same year, a mother was walked out of the ceremony in handcuffs after cheering too loudly for her daughter, the local ABC affiliate reported.

Related links:

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New data shows high school graduation rates jumping, but some groups still lag behind

Graduates say colleges aren't preparing them for the workforce

Email: eschulzke@desnews.com