Ah, those halcyon days of high school. I still remember my graduation. It was 1997, so of course at my predominantly black school, the class song wound up being “I Believe I Can Fly.” There was no other graduation song for black high schoolers in 1997. Well, at least no songs that got the crowd as crunk. (“End of the Road” was for after-parties.) I remember my favorite teacher giving me an awkward hug. And I remember my family, all seven of them, there on the strength of three extra tickets I’d finagled.

I also remember the boy beside me, Brandon Brown. He was popular, well-dressed, hilarious. And I’d never had an opportunity to talk to him before. That day, we were abuzz with excitement and nerves and hoping we wouldn’t trip crossing the stage. He planned to ham it up when it was his turn. He’d cross the stage dancing or pumping his fist or something, he assured our row.

He didn’t disappoint. He went with a modifying collar-pop and an exaggerated stride. Though the crowd had been warned to hold its cheers to till the end of the ceremony and just give respectful golf-claps throughout, the crowd went up for Brandon. As we made our way back our seats, we heard one last loud cheer for him. He chuckled. “That’s my family.”

Everyone wants that feeling. You’ve accomplished something. And you want it lauded. Loudly. It’s your moment and it’s brief. You hope your family seizes it, rules be damned. After all, it’s there moment, too. In many cases, in many ways, they got you to this finish line. And sometimes, it’s one of the only finish lines, academic or otherwise, that we get to cross. Brandon passed away a few years after we graduated. When I found out, the first thing I remembered was how he’d beamed and chuckled and puffed out his chest when he heard the crowd. It’s an unforgettable experience.

For South Carolina senior Iesha Cooper, the moment was tainted when police approached her mother, Shannon Cooper, just after she yelled, “Yay! My baby made it!” They arrested her for disorderly conduct. She remained in a detention center for several hours before having to post $225 bond. During the arrest, her daughter learned from friends what was happening and when the ceremony ended, she was only able to catch a glimpse of her mom in a police van, before she was taken away.

Hear mother and daughter discuss the humiliating incident here:

Colorlines reports that the trend of punishing loud cheering at graduations is on the rise. Ohio high schooler Anthony Cornist learned that his diploma would be held due to excessive cheering, until he performs 20 hours of community service as a penalty.

What do you think? Do these administrations have a point about loud cheering being too disruptive to other graduates and guests? Or is this all much ado (and punishment) about nothing? 

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