After a couple of years of Upson-Lee High School graduation ceremonies where applause was not allowed until the end of the ceremony, the Thomaston-Upson School System is going back to allowing clapping after the end of each row of graduates is reached. That decision was affirmed following a plea by senior class officers to the Board of Education at the board’s meeting on Dec. 11.
Senior Class President Kendra Richardson and Senior Class Vice President Savannah Suarez came before the board to make the request to change the graduation procedures in regards to applause.
“High school graduation is a special, once-in-a-lifetime event that we have looked forward to and dreamed of since we began our educational journey,” said Richardson. “We do not want it to be just a regular ceremony, but a joyous and memorable celebration of our accomplishments. We have overcome obstacles, big and small, throughout these 13 years in order to reach this milestone, and we would greatly appreciate it if we, along with our loved ones, were allowed to proudly express and congratulate ourselves by clapping as each student’s name is called. We are hoping that you all will give your consent for this request; however, if this cannot be done, we are asking that you at least consider applause after each row of graduates, instead of at the end of the ceremony.”
Suarez presented the board with research the students had done, checking with surrounding school systems to see what their graduation procedures were, and with individual students and parents.
“Lamar County has the class size of 162 graduating students and their ceremony took one hour,” stated Suarez. “There were no issues, but before the graduation ceremony started, they said the following statement: ‘Although clapping is not prohibited, imagine how sad you would feel if someone was clapping while your child’s name was being called. Keep this in mind.’
“Griffin High School has approximately 300 students graduating, similar to ours. Their ceremony lasted two hours, and each student’s name was able to be heard. The applause stopped once the student crossed the stage.
“Pike County High School has a class size of about 230 students. They can clap, but cannot bring noisemakers or air horns. Another thing that Pike County does is that one person from each graduate’s family gets a ticket to sit on a certain area of the field to take pictures, and to be a part of the ceremony.
“We also asked various students and parents what their opinions were on the topic of applause at graduation,” said Suarez. “The current valedictorian stated that, ‘They should let people clap, because that is how most colleges do it, and they can’t enforce the no clapping anyway. I’ve seen a lot of people clap or yell, then walk out themselves.’ A parent stated that it is a celebration for parents and they have been waiting 13 years for this special day and they deserve to show their appreciation for their child’s long, hard work. “
Following the students’ presentation, the board discussed the issue, with all agreeing that clapping after the end of each row of students has been called should be allowed. Dr. Shook noted that had been the procedure until a couple of years ago, when special circumstances caused a change.
“I believe it was two or three years ago, rain threatened, and they made an immediate decision to not stop for each row, but clap at the end, and right as we finished, the rain did come,” said Dr. Shook. “But it really should be that you’re allowed to clap after each row.”
The board agreed and Dr. Shook advised them that she will see that the graduation procedures go back to the policy of clapping after the end of each row of students.