Ill. students Lose Diplomas Over Cheers

Jan 23, 2006
New York New York

Caisha Gayles graduated with honors last month, but she is still waiting for her diploma. The reason: the whoops of joy from the audience as she crossed the stage.

Gayles was one of five students denied diplomas from the lone public high school in Galesburg after enthusiastic friends or family members cheered for them during commencement.
About a month before the May 27 ceremony, Galesburg High students and their parents had to sign a contract promising to act in dignified way. Violators were warned they could be denied their diplomas and barred from the after-graduation party.

Many schools across the country ask spectators to hold applause and cheers until the end of graduation. But few of them enforce the policy with what some in Galesburg say are strong-arm tactics.
"It was like one of the worst days of my life," said Gayles, who had a 3.4 grade-point average and officially graduated, but does not have the keepsake diploma to hang on her wall. "You walk across the stage and then you can't get your diploma because of other people cheering for you. It was devastating, actually."
School officials in Galesburg, a working-class town of 34,000 that is still reeling from the 2004 shutdown of a 1,600-employee refrigerator factory, said the get-tough policy followed a 2005 commencement where hoots, hollers and even air horns drowned out much of the ceremony and nearly touched off fights in the audience when the unruly were asked to quiet down.

"Lots of parents complained that they could not hear their own child's name called," said Joel Estes, Galesburg's assistant superintendent. "And I think that led us to saying we have to do something about this to restore some dignity and honor to the ceremony so that everyone can appreciate it and enjoy it."
In Indianapolis, public school officials this year started kicking out parents and relatives who cheer. At one school, the superintendent interrupted last month's graduation to order police to remove a woman from the gymnasium.
"It's an important, solemn occasion. There's plenty of time for celebration before and after," said Clarke Campbell, president of the Indianapolis school board.

In Galesburg, the issue has taken on added controversy with accusations that the students were targeted because of their race: four are black and one is Hispanic. Parents say cheers also erupted for white students, and none of them was denied a diploma.
Principal Tom Chiles said administrators who monitored the more than 2,000-seat auditorium reported only disruptions they considered "significant," and all turned in the same five names.
"Race had absolutely nothing to do with it whatsoever," Chiles said. "It is the amount of disruption at the time of the incident."
School officials said they will hear students and parents out if they appeal. Meanwhile, the school said the five students can still get their diplomas by completing eight hours of public service work, answering phones, sorting books or doing other chores for the district, situated about 150 miles southwest of Chicago.

Gayles' mother said she plans to fight the school board — in court if necessary — to get her daughter's diploma. The noise "was like three seconds. It was like, `Yay,' and that was it," Carolyn Gayles said.

American Civil Liberties Union spokesman Edward Yohnka said Galesburg's policy raises no red flags as long as it is enforced equitably. "It's probably well within the school's ability to control the decorum at an event like this," he said.
Another student who was denied her diploma, Nadia Trent, said she will probably let the school keep it if her appeals fail.
"It's not fair. Somebody could not like me and just decide to yell to get me in trouble. I can't control everyone, just the ones I gave tickets to," Trent said.;_ylt=AqpaMtqAcz7gzsYP7JIKvr4H1vAI


I love bags
Sep 13, 2005
Wow, who is running that school???

I understand not wanting cheering, but seriously - that is just really over the top.


A taste for the arts
Oct 7, 2006
San Francisco
That is ridiculous. The student earned the diploma, and the school has NO right to not present it to them.

I smell a lawsuit coming.


Aug 26, 2006
North Carolina
Wow, some administrators really overreacted! Don't they have bigger problems to be concerned about than people cheering for graduates?


Apr 28, 2006
My high school graduation was ruined due to a similar incident. A group of kids contacted the ACLU and protested that the prayer that was always said before the graduation ceremony was unconstitutional. The ACLU got involved and got an injunction to stop it days before our graduation. As a result, the small town I grew up in became a media circus and we got national news attention. It ruined the graduation because we had to navigate around CNN cameras and reporters sticking mics in our faces asking us to comment. It was totally stupid and I'm not really even a religious person, it was just a tradition and nothing more... and a few people saw an opportunity to cause trouble.


Feb 6, 2006
Orange County
my HS graduation was so large (graduating class of nearly 3,000 students. the HS in itself has about 9,000 students total), that it didn't even matter if you could hear your child's name or not. my graduation was like a freaking college/university graduation.. one biiiiiiig ceremony/speech section.. then at like 10am, we split into four sections.. divided up by our last names.

this is a little stupid though.. 'i'm happy for your son/daughter. don't cheer for them when they succeed. SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!'

lol. sounds asian. lollll. all the successes in the world or accomplishments/achievements that we can do, and all we get from our parents/elders are, "ok. and? so what? where's your masters (if graduating with BS/BA)?" or "where's your PhD?" nothing's ever good enough. xP.

also with my name.. i'm very sure my parents cheered for the wrong person. lol. there were 4 other Jimmy Nguyen's in my class. lolll.


May 16, 2006
Bavaria, Germany
That's horrible! At my highschool graduation, the parents were asked to do the same - but they still cheered out and clapped. Maybe not as loudly as they would have normally but they still did it.

She had better get her diploma - she will need it eventually. I can't even count how many times I've needed a notarised copy of my ORIGINAL diploma sent to different Universities, Work locations, etc...


Feb 6, 2006
Orange County
She had better get her diploma - she will need it eventually. I can't even count how many times I've needed a notarised copy of my ORIGINAL diploma sent to different Universities, Work locations, etc...
wow really? how interesting. all the places/etc i've dealt with usually request an official copy of my transcript instead... which i suppose is a lot more invasive than a diploma. -_-


Nov 5, 2006
I have worked in several high schools over the last 14 years. Graduation is always stressful.

The request for everyone to hold their cheers, etc. is quite simple. It comes from observing persons who do not know how to gauge what is appropriate. If everyone applauds after each grad, these things stretch out forever. This group needs to outdo the noise from the last group. Noise keeps the next student from getting their 10 seconds of recognition. As a result we have been forced to ask that everyone hold their congratulations until everyone has been recognized.

The schools I have worked for do not even give out the diploma. It is held until after the graduation.

I have seen a principal resign rather than apologise for taking the diploma cover out of a student's hands before he could leave center stage because a family member yelled.