Saturday, June 9, 2012

Graduation Ceremonies and the Police

Are there any adults left in America?  I ask this in response to a story out of Florence, Florida where a mother named Shannon Cooper was handcuffed and escorted to jail for cheering too loudly at her daughter's high school graduation. That's right ladies and gentlemen, lack of decorum is now a jail able offense.

Some background. For ten years of my life I was a volunteer in the youth group of my church. I taught mostly 11th and 12th grade boys. I went to summer camps with them, had them over my house for bible studies..that sort of thing. Our church had a Rather large youth group made up of kids from a variety of high schools. Because I became very close to many of the them, I would often receive invitations to their graduations. Over those ten years I estimate that I attended close to twenty such affairs, mostly at the Siegle Center. Every graduation service started out the same way,  the principle would welcome everyone, then make a statement something along these lines..."During the processional of graduates, we would ask that you refrain from cheering until all graduates receive their diplomas. That way, each and every family member will get to hear their student's name read. Please be respectful during this solumn occasion."  The program would usually also contain words to this effect. The results were also always the same. When certain students' names were called whole families would hoot and holler. As the ceremony dragged on, the outbursts would get louder and more obnoxious. There would be the inevitable shouts of .."You Da Man!!!", and the screaming of embarrassing nicknames like.." Atta boy Butt-Cheeks!!!". Some were worse than others, but somehow I made it through twenty of these services without witnessing the humiliating arrest of a parent.

I am not without sympathy for the desire of school officials to insure the dignity of their graduations. Time was that a high school graduation was indeed a solumn event, and it's importance immeasurable. 50 years ago the most common emotion displayed at such events would have been tears, not uproarious screaming and high fives. But 50 years ago the most popular show on television was the Beverley Hillbillies...uh..times have changed. In a more perfect world, parents wouldn't act like idiots at high school graduations. But in a more perfect world, administrators would come up with a better way of dealing with overenthusiastic demonstrators. A better way than a jail cell! As irritating as some of the over the top demonstrations were, I never saw anything worthy of an arrest, let alone the sight of a mother being handcuffed and frog-marched out by a cop in front of a thousand people. What administrator decided that THIS was the answer?? Again, where are the adults?

Free people make a deal with their governments. We grant them a monopoly on violence in exchange for assurance of it's judicious application. That "deal" seems sour when a policeman handcuffs a celebrating parent. The irony here is that for a country famous for it's devotion to freedom and liberty, we have become the most policed country on the face of the earth. From the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms on the federal level, to State Troopers, County police departments, and city police precincts at lower levels even to mall cops and omnipresent private security..we are crawling with law-enforcers. As annoying as some graduation ceremonies have become, it disturbs me to see a Shannon Cooper hauled off by cop with the encouragement and approval of an administrator  given jurisdiction over the education of the young. This is the judicious application of force?  Somebody needs to go BACK to school!