Maine diploma denial a lesson in restraint, social aptitude

By Peter Elliott | Everyday Christian Editor

Posted 7:46 am on June 18, 2009

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I have an education degree and have taught middle school Language Arts.

I support school districts clamping down on too much silliness at graduation ceremonies. Observing a high school graduation should be approached with decorum for the students and by the students. It’s a matter of basic respect for an academic environment and for the highly-trained and dedicated education professionals who have guided and instructed the students.

That being said, a Standish, Maine, school district appears to have overstepped its bounds by denying Justin Denney a diploma.

According to WMTW-TV in Portland, School Area 6 District Superintendent Suzanne Lukas was upset before the ceremony at Bonny Eagle High School really got underway, and understandably so.

Students ignored warnings about bouncing beachballs around.

One disruptive student was moved away from his friends and taken backstage for a discussion with local police.  When he didn’t like what the police had to say, he threw his cap and gown off and stormed out of the civic center where the graduation was taking place.

Lukas warned students again when beachballs reappeared and warned about unnecessary showboating. However, she let her emotions get the best of her when Denney came up to get his diploma.

Denney bowed and blew kisses to family and friends in the audience when he went up on stage, a variation of such I’ve seen at every graduation I’ve ever attended or been a part of. Lukas told him to take his seat and did not give him his diploma for the display.

Not surprisingly, Denney’s family is outraged.

Public comment on the WMTW story strongly takes Lukas to task.

Certainly, Denney deserves to receive his diploma.

An apology would be appropriate too.

But the fact that inappropriate behavior - and I’m thinking more of the kid who stormed out than the beachballs here - should even be an issue is a reminder that teaching kids and even reminding adults of what it means to have social aptitude.

At school, if a teacher tells a student to stop talking during a test, it’s time to stop talking and not try and pick an argument.

At work, if you have a deadline you’ve known about for weeks, professionally you should have planned ahead so you’re not running around like a decapitated chicken to get the project done.

At church, when the opening hymn or song starts, it’s time to set your cell phone to vibrate.

I hope Justin Denney is successful in whatever he decides to pursue in his future.

I hope Suzanne Lukas gets him the diploma.

I hope all of us - myself included - do a better job of showing restraint when the situation dictates it.


Tags: education, Justin Denney, Suzanne Lukas

about the author:
Peter Elliott

Peter Elliott is a veteran news and sports journalist. He enjoys interviewing others about how God works in their lives and sharing that with readers. He is also a lifelong, long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan. He resides in Indianapolis with his wife and three sons.

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