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Chicago-Area High School Threatened to Deny Diplomas to Cap-Tossing Seniors

cap and gown

Keep your cap on . . . or else

It’s not unusual to hear tales of abusive power in and around Chicago. We’re looking at you, Rod Blagojevich, William Beavers, George Ryan, Isaac Carothers, James Laski, Otto Kerner, Dan Walker, and Peter Florrick, among many, many others (yes, we know the latter is fictitious, but still).

Yet, as common as crooked public figures are in the Land of Lincoln, you don’t often hear about them in the schools. That all changed in May when Ridgewood High School in suburban Norridge denied diplomas to the entire senior class after a few students tossed their caps at a commencement ceremony.

The class of 2014 had been specifically instructed not to display “disrespectful and insubordinate behavior” by following a long-held tradition of joyfully tossing their caps in the air to celebrate moving on from high school, according to The Chicago Tribune. When they did just that? School administrators kept the diplomas all to themselves.

“The gym is decorated; people dress up (some of them); we expect dignified behavior … Secondly, it is an indoor event. In past ceremonies, people have been hit by flying caps. We’d just as soon not have graduates leaving with cuts and black eyes …  Perhaps it is the final lesson they will take away from high school: There are consequences for behaviors in life,” wrote school Superintendent Dr. Robert Lupo on his blog.

Flying caps? Black eyes? Cuts? The horror! (No word if medics were needed to treat wounded bystanders.)

Not surprisingly, the ridiculous punishment didn’t stick for too long, with the school saying the very next day if the offenders apologized at an upcoming school board meeting, they could get the piece of paper they spent four years earning. Then a few days later they back-tracked even further, saying all students would just be mailed their diplomas even without a mea culpa.

It’s hard to imagine what might have motivated Lupo to implement such a draconian policy in the first place (although it certainly couldn’t have been the risk of injury from flying tassles, because, well, tassles). Perhaps the stench of the crooked misdeeds of notorious Illinois politicians past was too inexplicably intoxicating to ignore. Or maybe Lupo envied the power-hungry ways of The Breakfast Club‘s Richard Vernon and was devising a way to keep the seniors around for Saturday detention in the summer.

Of course it’s entirely possible that the Ridgewood High School senior Class of ’14 was a particularly obnoxious one. Maybe a few rotten seniors spoiled it for the bunch by passing when they really deserved to fail. But by the time graduation day arrived, you’d think Lupo would have been happy to rid himself of the students he so clearly scorned. Why bother with a stunt he just had to know would attract attention — and not in any kind of a good way. If he was trying to shine a light on some lousy kids, all he did was make himself look lousy in the process.

The kids? The cap-tossing ones? They’re practically heroes now. Toss your caps some more, kids! Let freedom ring!

And, really, can you blame the students at this specific school for wanting to celebrate moving on from this specific superintendent? Maybe Lupo will take this opportunity to put something in one of those caps and smoke it. If anyone could benefit from taking the edge off, it’s him.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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Follow Meredith on Twitter and check out her regular column on the op-ed page of The Denver Post at MeredithCarroll.com

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