This is the story of two graduating seniors. One of the seniors received his diploma; the other did not. The one that received his diploma seemed to be, at least on the surface, less deserving; the one who did not seems to have been completely wronged. Just what exactly happened?
At Bonny Eagle High School in Standish, Maine, graduating senior Justin Denney was waiting to hear his name called in order to walk across the stage and get his diploma. According to WMTW.com, several of his classmates had already been told they would not get their diplomas that day because they had caused disturbances in the ceremony (batting beach balls and causing disruptions in the proceedings). When Justin Denney, who had not touched a beach ball or participated in any disruptive activity, heard his name called he went to get it, stopping to bow to his classmates, point at a few of them, and blow a kiss to his mother. School Superintendent Suzanne Lukas told him that the graduation stage was no place to fool around.
Saying nothing, the superintendent, already angry at the students for the multiple disruptions (including one immediately following her warning that some more of the seniors might not graduate if they chose not to settle down), Lukas asked Denney why he should receive his diploma. He said, “I worked hard for it and I deserve it.”
Superintendent Lukas then said, “No, go take your seat.” She was promptly booed by the entire audience gathered to see the seniors of Bonny Eagle High School graduate.
While Justin Denney was denied his diploma, another story that could have taken much the same turn took place in Shaker Heights, Ohio. At Shaker Heights High School, the Raider Nation Yearbook displayed the “f-bomb” on the cover. According to Fox 8 in Cleveland, when Shaker Heights High School Principal Michael Griffith was apprised of the hidden “f-bomb” in the artwork, he immediately stopped sale of the offending artwork, began “cosmetically” altering the covers to rid them of the offensive “f-bomb,” and wrote a letter to parents explaining his actions. He also offered to “surgically” remove the offensive “f-word” from the yearbooks that had already been sold. Along with his letter was a note of apology from the artistic student, who said it was “unfortunate” that he “did not recognize the big responsibility and honor given” to him “when asked to design the cover of the Shaker Heights yearbook.”
Many would probably think that that artistic student should not have been allowed to graduate. But that particular student walked across the graduation stage to the longest and loudest ovation at the graduation ceremony at Shaker Heights High School.
So how is it that one graduating senior got his diploma and the other did not? It is obvious that Principal Michael Griffith recognized that, although the inclusion of the “f-bomb” on the Raider Nation Yearbook cover was something of concern, it did not merit the expulsion of the offending student, nor did it require denying him his diploma, something the student had worked years to achieve. On the other hand, for whatever reasons (frustration and anger seem to be the most obvious), Superintendent Lukas failed to see that not only was Justin Denney’s actions not demanding the withholding of his diploma, but that her decision to do so was an egregious overreaction to his rather harmless bowing and kissing.
Two stories. Two situations where things got a bit out of hand. One was handled with an eye to the student’s future. The other was handled in ill-tempered haste.
Justin Denney, however, will get his diploma. An assistant superintendent assured Justin and his family that he would receive his diploma. Superintendent Lukas has been unavailable for comment for days.
As for the Shaker Heights Yearbook artist, it is hoped that he was given more than just an apology to write. One hopes that his punishment included the “cosmetic” altering of the Raider Nation Yearbook at its “f-bomb” motif.