what to do about high school graduation restrictions?

wooderlanderMay 24, 2006

Our Northern California town is basically half Mexican and half Caucasian, including a significant Punjabi population, with large families that have been here for generations. We haven't been here for that long, but we do have a big family. High school graduation is a pretty big family deal here. My Dear Stepdaughter is our last graduating high school senior, so stepsiblings will come from out of state for the graduation, plus the three branches of our blended family here.

Here is the problem: Even though the graduating class is not huge, the new principal intends to allow each family only five seats at graduation and will not allow chairs to be brought in because it would look "tacky," though the ceremony will be outdoors. My first thought when I heard about this was "racism," though of course I could be wrong. I don't want to be a troublemaking organizer, but the new policy is unfair at least. I plan to speak to the principal, but don't expect much from him.

Is this policy normal and to be expected, or not? Does anyone have any suggestions or ideas for an effective way to approach this?

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The limited number of seats is common where I live. Many of the venues where graduations are held simply don't have enough space to accommodate an unlimited number of people and the graduating classes are large. Some limited number of immediate family - parents and a couple others attend the graduation itself and everyone attends a big party at the home of the graduate. It's so common no one even thinks twice about it. It has nothing to do with race here.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 3:40PM
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In this world of mega high schools, limited seating is more the norm than the exception I believe.

I don't think your family members will mind "missing" the ceremony. After all, your child will only be mentioned for a moment, if at all. Now, for relatives of the valedictorian, or anyone with a major role, I imagine they should provide more tickets.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 4:35PM
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That is what the high schools do here in Butte County, none of which is very large. They found that unlimited guests led to lots of problems, not just because of facility restrictions but primarily because of security. It is sad that people can't respect something like a graduation ceremony, but these days there are those whose purpose is disruption rather than celebration. It is also true that emotions run high at an event like this and things can quickly turn in an unwanted direction.

I understand how you feel, but I doubt that the reason for this change is racist, though race may play a factor in it. Perhaps the administration fears potential gang activity or something like that (is that racist?). Anyway, it's likely a safety measure as much as a space constraint issue.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 4:48PM
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Limited seating is certainly the norm here as well, and frankly, I'm happy to have a good excuse to miss those booo-ring ceremonies...

I can't really see anything racist about it. Or are you thinking that it's mainly the caucasian families that are small enough to fit everyone in five seats?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 4:57PM
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It isn't unfair if it applies to everyone. Something isn't unfair just because you don't get what you want. My law school graduation was limited to 4 guests, and law school is a much bigger deal than high school.

My LLM was limited to 8 guests (I brought 3. Who wants to sit through all those names being called?), but it was at a huge venue (a concert pavilion in Boston). It was total pandemonium with all those people.

Maybe you could videotape it?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 5:09PM
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I agree with other responses regarding racism, fairness, security, and space limitations. I believe at my high school reunion way back when, we were allowed only two guests per student.

I do have a suggestion that others haven't mentioned. Usually there are families that don't need all their tickets and gladly give them to those families that do. Do you know of a family that has extra tickets?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 5:56PM
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Goodness, yes, limited seating is the norm. My HS graduation in 1965 had limited seating, I think it was three or four guests, which became even more limited when it rained and had to be moved inside - then only two guests were allowed. Be glad it's five.

My daughters public school graduations were held at the local college field house and had pretty much unlimited seating, but my son's private school graduation was held at the school and did have limited seating. Having attended my share of graduations, I'd be more than happy to just go to the party afterwards!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 6:29PM
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Thanks, folks. It's good to know that this is common practice.

Actually, DSD IS the valedictorian, and her older sister was valedictorian before her. And they're fine girls as well. Their parents must have done something right. :)

This is not a large school, and the ceremony will be on the football field, so I don't think it's a space problem. The principal also says no videotaping! We can buy a videotape for $30.

Sue36, you're right that something isn't unfair just because you don't get what you want, but I don't agree that it isn't unfair if it applies to everyone. I can think of all kinds of exceptions to that. It just seems unfair to me because it's not what people here expect and because h.s. graduation IS a big deal here.

My kids' graduations from high school and college were big, fun events, especially UT law school, which was actually pretty rowdy. I guess that's more what I'm used to.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 6:34PM
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Here in NJ we got to bring unlimited guests to HS graduation on the footabll field. However, if it rained and was moved to the gym, you only got 3-4 tickets.

People "borrowed" extra tickets from families that didn't need them.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 7:05PM
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There may be exceptions to it, but it doesn't apply in this case. In general, if the rule is applied to everyone it is fair. An exception would be where it is impossible to be fair to a group of people under a rule because of some inherent quality. A good example would be saying, "we fire all pregnant people, but it is fair because we apply the rule to men and women". Since men do not get pregnant, the rule is unfair to women, and actually intended to discriminate, to be biased.

Congratulations to your stepdaughter, I am sure she is a fine individual. She has worked very hard, obviously.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 10:45PM
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Well, I can certainly understand why you'd want some additional tickets since a family member is the valedictorian. I would definitely ask everyone you know if they have any tickets they're not going to use and perhaps, given the circumstances, perhaps the school would be willing to make a general announcement to the effect if anyone has tickets they aren't planning to use, please return them to the office and you could get some more tickets that way.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2006 at 10:47PM
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Racism? Please, to event think that way is a bit off in my opinion. We have restrictions and 'tickets' in our area and we do not have a large Mexican population.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2006 at 12:19AM
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No, mariposatraicionera, it's not "a bit off." I'm not the only one who thought of it, though I may be a little oversensitive to this issue. But thanks for your opinion.

Sue36, what if you have a population composed of approximately half large, proud families, and the other half mostly smaller proud families, and a rule is made of "no large groups allowed." That is essentially what is happening, and what is causing the unhappiness. To me, it looks unfair to the half with large families, it may be discriminatory if it is made for discriminatory reasons, and therefore I believe it may be an exception to your definition of fairness.

Yes, thank you, my husband's daughters are very good students.

This is a new, unpopular principal. I understand from reading the posts here that his way of doing things is normal -- but not for here. People will get used to it, I suppose, and we only have another couple of weeks with him.

In any case, I don't want to argue about this! I shared my thoughts about it, and wanted to hear yours. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2006 at 6:47AM
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Let me see, this graduation is in a football stadium? How many will this stadium hold, and how many students are in the graduating class? I don't do math this early in the morning- will you let us know how many guests each graduate 'should' be able to invite?

Yes, in venues with limited seating I can understand a restriction on tickets. But, cripes, this is a stadium. I'm sure there's a capacity limit for games- is graduation no less important than a sporting event? I think that's your ace in the hole.

Sue36 is right, if the rule is applied uniformly, there is no discrimination- but that's a federal (?) test. Applying the fish test (does it smell? probably fishy...) makes one wonder if the rule, arbitrary as it is (assuming the stadium capacity would allow more guests per graduate) has an intended consequence of keeping the number of minority attendees in check. In our town, the Mexican families are large, they are loud, they cheer wildly and wave banners at the graduations. Whereas our kids are expected to graduate, and it's just a rite of passage, it is a HUGE deal to them and their families. Power to them- this is education and certainly cause for celebration. He thinks chairs are tacky? Maybe he thinks their exuberance is tacky as well.

I don't think you're off the mark at all.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2006 at 7:58AM
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I guess in Massachusetts, where I am from, they must limit the number of tickets because they want to discriminate against Irish-Americans, with their large families.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2006 at 10:24AM
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I graduated in No. Cal., it will be 20 years ago exactly June 13. :) I was one of 530 students graduating (my high school and college were the same size!). We were outside, but that's a lot of families!! 5 is generous. Inside graduations are much more limited. Have a huge party afterwards and have a good time! The ceremony is boring anyway. :) ¡Felicitaciones!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2006 at 3:48PM
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