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Student Denied Diploma For Blowing Mom Kiss

Student Denied Diploma For Blowing Mom Kiss

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

The end of a school year is always great fodder for this column. Lawsuits by high school students unhappy with their grades, senior pranks ranging from the very minor to the outrageous, school administrators who crack down on small incidents,controversial or weird commencement speeches, and general high school shenanigans that makes normal people roll their eyes and say, "Meh, what are you gonna do?"

So I wasn't too surprised when I heard that Justin Denney, a graduate of Bonney Eagle High School in Portland, Maine was denied his diploma because of his wild, over-the-top antics on the graduation stage.

When he crossed the stage, he bowed to his family, and blew his mom a kiss. Crazy, just crazy.

Apparently, Denney broke some sort of double-secret rule of appropriateness, because Portland Schools superintendent Suzanne Lukas told him to go back to his seat, allegedly saying, "there's no fooling around up here." She refused to give him his diploma, and he had to walk back to his seat, empty-handed. In fact, she still hasn't given it to him.

Meanwhile, Justin's mother, Mary, is what clinical psychologists call "wicked pissed." She is demanding an apology from Lukas, and she wants Lukas to personally hand Justin his diploma. She doesn't see any problem with what Justin did, and believes he has a right to be proud of his accomplishments and his family.

In fact, a lot of people are upset with Lukas. From what the Portland Press-Herald is saying, there were a lot of students and families who were upset with Lukas' fascist response to the antics of some of the students, and they're holding her responsible for turning the ceremony into a fiasco.

Admittedly, some of the students got out of hand, bouncing around a couple of inflatable beach balls and a giant inflatable rubber ducky. The police escorted one student out of the ceremony and nearly arrested him, and now Justin hasn't been given his diploma because he wanted to honor his family and show his love.

Needless to say, parents are writing angry letters and emails to the school board and to Lukas, demanding that something be done.

According to an article on local news station websites, the SAD 6 school board had an emergency executive session on Wednesday to discuss Lukas' "performance at the graduation," the administration's version of being called to the principal's office.

There was no word whether Lukas would be expelled, suspended, or sent to detention. Maybe they'll tell her "there's no fooling around up there," and withhold her paycheck.

Now I'll admit things are different today from when I was in high school. When I graduated in, uhh, 1985, we were a lot more staid and boring. When the person at the front of the auditorium said "hold your applause until the end," by God, we held it. There were always a couple of families who yelled and cheered, but most people shot them dirty looks and whispered about the impropriety of it all.

People were aghast in those days. We were offended, bothered, and disturbed by graduation antics, which is why no one cheered for me. (Of course, that's also because I had gotten into serious trouble that morning, but that's a whole other story.)

Not anymore. When my younger brother graduated from college a couple years ago, and the guy up front asked us to hold our applause, my normally-reserved mother informed me she was going to cheer for my brother.

"But we're not supposed to do that," I said, shouting to be heard over the families of other graduating seniors. "That guy said not to."

"You haven't been to a graduation in a while, have you?" said my mom, and then whooped and clapped like she had just won the lottery when Andrew's name was called.

Okay, I did too. A little.

Like it or not, craziness is just a part of graduation these days. And while Lukas and her ilk would like it to be a staid, boring ceremony like it was 24 years ago, they need to remember this is a celebration about the kids, for the kids, because of the kids. Let them have their moment of fun. Don't ruin it by clenching your iron fist, or you won't like the fallout.

Because if I were a betting man, I would wager Superintendent Lukas won't be available to distribute diplomas next year or any year after that.

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  1. In high school, I used to go talk to the secretary in the guidance counselors' office almost every day. Her job included putting together the diplomas for the graudates. I opened mine and found she had tracked down a photo of me from second grade and taped a photocopy inside. Even in 1990 some people still had a sense of humor.


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