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Letters to the Editors

Ceremony should be for graduates only

© St. Petersburg Times
published May 24, 2002

Editor: It is astonishing and disappointing to think that graduation has become nothing more than a walk across the stage, a handshake and tassel-turning spectacle as perceived by some our School Board members and other educational leaders. Graduation is and ought to be a solemn and serious ceremony that recognizes the culmination of 13 years of earned and demonstrated achievement. Graduation is not and hopefully never will become an event to symbolize the awarding of a certificate of attendance, rather than a diploma.

Unfortunately, graduation ceremonies themselves have become far less formal, to the point of appearing more like an athletic contest -- whether hosted inside the activities center as they are at Zephyrhills High School or in the stadiums as they are at other high schools.

How does this happen? Parents and other spectators through the years have encouraged and guided the outbursts, beach balls, whistles, cowbells, air horns, etc., that detract from each graduate's special moment of recognition. By the way, the class sponsors and administrators are diligent in their efforts to control and confiscate contraband with little audience support demonstrated to date.

Returning to the policy of "everybody deserves to walk across the stage": It is an affront to the great majority of students who have earned their diplomas, to the many civic groups who raise untold thousands of dollars in local scholarship money to be awarded to the graduating class and to employers who insist on hiring high school graduates for their place of business.

For those 58 disappointed parents whose children are not graduating, there are many worse things that could happen. Other doors of graduation opportunities are still open to you, and a positive life message can be learned. With very few exceptions, students can meet the graduation requirements; and for those who struggle, there are countless opportunities to overcome those shortcomings. But one must take the initiative or risk the possibilities of not meeting a minimum standard of achievement.

Graduation standards should be maintained for everyone without exception!
-- Robert F. Hatfield, Dade City

No excuse for not knowing graduation requirements

Editor: As a parent of a high school junior, I know the requirements for graduation. How could those parents not know? Have they ever been to their children's school? Do they know who the class adviser is? Do they ever talk to their children?

I would be ashamed if I found out just days before my child was to graduate that she had not mentioned the requirements. I can bet those parents have not helped their children fill out college applications. Thank you, Pam Coulter, for standing by your convictions.

I hope the Pasco County School Board also will. Starting in middle school, the kids know the requirements for graduation. The papers have stories on FCAT and test scores all the time. Please take responsibility for yourself and your child. Your child is not graduating because neither of you took the time to find out the requirements.

All seniors graduating today did the work and met the requirements. The ones who didn't meet the requirements do not have the right to walk on stage and turn their tassels! The county has added a second graduation just for those children who have the pride to finish.
-- Arlene Gamache, New Port Richey

Officer was right not to fight unarmed black teenager

Re: Officer disciplined for not joining fight, May 18.

Editor: I personally support former Sgt. Richard Parker's decision to not get involved in "gang jumping" a 16-year-old.

My main concern, as a black man in this town, is why would one accuse a young black man of having a gun that was not seen? I also think the officers who were quick to act, without facts, should be the ones to be reprimanded, not Parker.

What is to be said of three skilled police officers who can't handle an unarmed 16-year-old? Adrenaline doesn't flow without a cause. Perhaps interdisciplinary skills were not in play on Feb. 18. Perhaps the 16-year-old was faced with an unforeseen circumstance that some adults would be incapable of handling gracefully.

Capt. David Duff has not offered any statements to the people that were affected by all of this. People as young as elementary school age were pepper-sprayed during this atrocious episode.

Was Parker demoted because he seems to have a humane relationship with the black community? Without Parker, there isn't a genuine relationship between the police department and the blacks of this town. I'm very disappointed in Capt. Duff's earlier recommendation that Sgt. Parker be fired. What's the real reason for his demotion to officer?
Deryl R. Williams, Dade City

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