About 10 days before school ended, the administration at Petaluma High School held a meeting to give the parents of seniors information about the year-end events including the prom, graduation and Project Grad.

One of the major topics discussed at the meeting was the decision by the administration this year to seat the graduating seniors in alphabetical order for the Saturday morning graduation ceremony. In prior years, there weren’t any rules about how the seniors would be organized and so the kids could “walk with their friends,” and of course, sit with their friends for the duration of the ceremony.

From what I gathered at the meeting, this approach worked just fine until last year’s graduation ceremony when some students used this freedom as an opportunity to see if they could get the party started early by launching various projectiles and raising the decibel level – so much so that it was difficult to hear student’s names as they were announced.

Rather than take more drastic disciplinary approach to the problem if students disrupted this year’s ceremony, the administration’s solution was to work with the entire senior class well in advance of graduation to remind them that this is a ceremony that deserves to be treated with respect. And they felt that putting the students in alphabetical order would also help discourage the boldness that comes when kids carry out their actions as a group.

Several parents at the meeting felt that the class of 2010 was being punished for the sins of the class of 2009 and that by not allowing their children to walk with their friends, their children were losing out on one of the more memorable parts of the graduation ceremony. It was also reported that students were  upset about not being able to walk with their friends and were circulating a petition.

After attending Saturday’s graduation exercise, I am grateful that the administration didn’t succumb to pressure from parents and students and stuck with their alphabetical plan; the ceremony wasn’t stuffy, yet it was impressive and respectful of the occasion. Parties can be wild and crazy, ceremonies such as graduation shouldn’t be. It is a milestone event worthy of being celebrated with dignity.

I know that every class has a different character and there is no saying that the class of 2010 would have behaved badly like their predecessors. However, since only a handful of students speak at the graduation, all the families and friends of the other 350 graduates are really only there for one reason: to hear the name of their loved one announced over the speaker system. It would have been a shame if the bad behavior of a few had obliterated this precious moment for us.

The students have the rest of their lives to sit with their friends. Having the students make the sacrifice of sitting alphabetically for an hour and a half to ensure that each graduate was duly honored, was worth it. It was a wonderful graduation ceremony and I was proud to be a parent of a PHS student.