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A High School Denied Seniors Their Diplomas for Participating in This Age-Old Tradition


"...perhaps it is the final lesson they will take away from high school."

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The graduating seniors at Ridgewood High School were warned. Repeatedly.

But they did it anyway at their commencement ceremony Tuesday — and the school reacted by denying them their diplomas.

What was their infraction?

The age-old tradition of tossing their graduation caps in the air.

Image source:  Image source: WMAQ-TV

The day after the verboten celebration, the school informed graduates on its website that class representatives would have to make a public apology for their "disrespectful and insubordinate behavior" at the June 4 school board meeting in order to receive their diplomas.

Superintendent Robert Lupo Superintendent Robert Lupo

Superintendent Dr. Robert Lupo added on his blog that "perhaps it is the final lesson they will take away from high school: there are consequences for behaviors in life. If you are unwilling to face those consequences, perhaps you should rethink your actions."

But on Thursday morning, Lupo "re-thought" that very stance, according to the school's website:

"Regarding the distribution of diplomas; we recognize that most of those who participated in the graduation ceremonies were well-behaved and followed instructions.  I am sorry that the ceremony was marred by a few students who chose not to follow those instructions.  Consequently, we have re-thought our policy and will be sending out diplomas to all members of the class of 2014 today..."

When the diploma-withholding news hit, graduates of the Norridge, Illinois, school were disappointed.

"I just think it's really ridiculous," senior Jackie Rios told WMAQ-TV in Chicago. "We worked so hard to get to this point."

Image source:  Image source: WMAQ-TV

Lupo had explained on his blog that the "gym is decorated; people dress up (some of them); we expect dignified behavior." In addition, "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." Lupo didn't offer an out for students who didn't throw their caps other than voicing their concerns to their classmates.

The Comments on Lupo's blog were mixed.

Some disagreed with the superintendent, like one commenter who noted, "This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Maybe it is you, Dr. Lupo, that needs to grow up."

Others agreed with his stance: "I am a Ridgewood alumni and I agree 110% with Mr. Lupo," one commenter wrote. "Children need to learn from their actions. And at this point they are still children. Grow up."

Parent Mary Sticha told WMAQ she supports the students.

"It was kind of silly that they would request them not to," Sticha told the station. "It wasn't a way to disrespect anyone, it was just a way to do something together and celebrate the end of the year."

Before Lupo's reversal on Thursday, the school noted on its website that graduates with extenuating circumstances who need their diplomas — e.g., plane tickets, immediate military enlistment, moving out of state — would need proof of their circumstances before contacting the director of student services for them.

Here's the WMAQ report previous to the school's reversal:

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