At least four people in Senatobia, Miss., are facing $500 fines and up to six months in jail for the crime of cheering at a high school graduation ceremony.
On May 21, Senatobia High School’s graduation ceremony, held at a local community college, went off with relatively few problems. Before the ceremony, Senatobia superintendent Jay Foster warned those in attendance to hold their applause and not cheer or make other noises until the end. A few people defied this request and cheered their loved ones as they approached the podium, and were subsequently escorted away from the ceremony.
Now, more than a week later, however, those family members have been slapped with charges of disturbing the peace, filed by Foster.
One affadavit, filed against Ursula Miller for cheering on her niece Lakaydra Jackson, accuses her of making a “boisterous noise” that violated “the peace and dignity of the State of Mississippi.”
Senatobia school district superintendent Jay Foster, who brought the charges, insists they are completely justified, as part of a necessary measure to keep order at graduation. Foster told FOX13 his warnings were clear, and those being charged consciously violated explicit instructions intended to make graduation better for everyone.
“When you make a conscious decision to disrupt that for that individual, what is too harsh?” Foster said.
However, video evidence indicates the disturbance from those cheering was slight. In footage of the graduation ceremony obtained by WREG News (skip to 0:25), the cheering by Henry Walker, one of those charged, amounts to a single “You did it, baby!” that drew laughs from on-lookers:
Those charged say they simply wanted to cheer on family members for the accomplishment of completing high school, and that actually arresting them and possibly sending them to jail is a huge overreaction.
“It’s crazy,” Walker told WREG. “The fact that I might have to bond out of jail, pay court costs, or a $500 fine for expressing my love, it’s ridiculous man. It’s ridiculous.”