Can cheering at this South Carolina high school graduation really cost you $1,030? It depends on whom you ask.
Yes, warns Greenville High School.
Maybe, suggests the Greenville County school district.
No, it can’t, says the Greenville Police Department.
So, what’s the truth?
In a recent assembly, an administrator at Greenville High warned students that family members could be fined $1,030 for yelling at seniors’ upcoming graduation at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
A slide shown at that assembly stated, “Since graduation is a dignified and solemn occasion, graduating seniors and their guests should behave appropriately. Please ask your guests not to call out, cheer, whistle, or applaud during the reading of names and presentation of diplomas.
“The Citation for Family Members yelling out is $1,030.”
District officials have said, however, that school administrators will not actually cite family members of graduates for cheering.
“It is not the district’s nor Greenville High School’s policy to cite parents,” said Greenville County Schools spokeswoman Beth Brotherton. “This (Greenville High) slide was created to inform students that because graduation is a ‘publicly sanctioned event’ and is held at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, it is under the jurisdiction of the Greenville Police Department.
“Greenville Police have the authority to cite and/or fine people in the audience who create a disturbance or disruption.”
Sgt. Johnathan Bragg, spokesman for the Greenville Police Department, said police have not and will not ticket family members merely for cheering, whistling or applauding during the reading of names.
“Screaming somebody’s name or congratulating them, that’s not a police matter,” Bragg said. “We would only get involved when it’s actually a criminal matter. As far as charging someone for yelling, we have not done that.”
An audience member who is continually disruptive could be asked to leave, but that would be the duty of arena staff, Bragg said.
“We’ve made it very clear that we don’t remove people,” Bragg said. “It’s not our property. It’s the arena’s property.”
However, Greenville Police could become involved if a person refuses to leave after being asked to leave by arena staff, Bragg said. In addition, particularly rowdy misbehavior could be seen as “disorderly conduct,” prompting a police response.
“If someone starts yelling obscenities, that’s a different story,” Bragg said. “That would get into the ‘disorderly’ realm.”
School officials have urged graduating seniors and their families to make commencements dignified occasions, and excessive cheering can cause delays in the ceremonies.
“It is safe to say that all seniors are given a set of expectations for behavior at graduation for both themselves and their guests,” Brotherton said.
Greenville High School principal Jason Warren didn’t return a message for comment.
Follow Paul Hyde on Twitter @PaulHyde7.