School earns a big boo

By OTHER VIEWS / Washington Post
Published June 8, 2007

Just the thought of a high school graduation makes us want to cheer. Young men and women, with proud parents, celebrate accomplishment as they look to the future. Clearly, it's a moment worth applauding (not to mention tearing up over). So the recent decision of an Illinois high school to withhold the diplomas of students because of excessive cheering is simply unforgivable.

Five students at Galesburg High School - including a girl who graduated with honors - were denied their keepsake diplomas and barred from a graduation party because officials deemed their friends and family guilty of exuberant cheering. The school's draconian punishment apparently is intended to put teeth into a policy aimed at making graduation more dignified. The May 27 incident became a bit of a national cause celebre, partly because all the students are minorities but mainly because of the inherent unfairness of punishing students for others' behavior. After being held up to nationwide ridicule, officials grudgingly agreed this week to hand over the diplomas. That the girls graduated was never in question.

It's understandable that schools want to create a proper environment for graduation ceremonies. And some things, such as those dreadful air horns, are simply out of place. But a little noise is preferable to depriving any family of the elation of this very special day. And it's that - not a simple piece of paper - that Galesburg officials took away and can't return.