Arrested For Cheering At Graduation
When Rudeness Is Criminal
It’s common for graduating students to have raucus cheering sections attend the ceremonies which have been accused of disrupting the awards for others. Sometimes the noise makers are arrested.
Six people at Fort Mill High School’s graduation were charged Saturday and a seventh at the graduation for York Comprehensive High School was charged Friday with disorderly conduct, authorities said. Police said the seven yelled after students’ names were called.
“I just thought they were going to escort me out,” Jonathan Orr told The Herald of Rock Hill. “I had no idea they were going to put handcuffs on me and take me to jail.”
Orr, 21, spent two hours in jail after he was arrested when he yelled for his cousin at York’s commencement at the Winthrop University Coliseum.
Even 10 years ago, my wife and family were annoyed at the ceremony at JHU when attendees (presumably family of graduating students) used shouts and noise makers to draw attention to themselves. No arrests were made, however.
Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy thinks the response is way over the top.
I think this is a classic slippery slope problem. Imagine you let people cheer at graduation. It seems innocuous at first. People get used to it; it feels good. But the next thing you know, they’ll start cheering at sporting events. Then they’ll add in concerts. Then they’ll cheer on their favorite contestants when watching American Idol. Before you know it, people will start expressing great joy all the time.
Prof. Kerr’s observation is aptly answered by commentator “Sk” in the responses.
1) When is decorum enforceable? Can I cheer after every sentence in Professor Kerr’s class (can I shout anti-gay slurs in college classes, the way I can outside of funerals? Can I should ‘fuck’ in a college class full of adults, given that I have the constitutional right to shout ‘fuck’ in a neighborhood full of children)? Anytime I want at a golf tournament? Tennis match? In a library? Can I scream outside of Professor Kerr’s family funerals, with no limits? If I disobey (say, instructions to stop interrupting Herr Professor), can I/will I be arrested?
2) If decorum is enforceable, but arrests are not allowed, how, exactly, is decorum to be enforced? (maybe simply removal will do).
Both unanswered questions. I have the sneaking suspicion, though, that first amendment rights extend only so far as they don’t discomfit law professors…
Yeah – there’s a time and a place for everything, and in this case there are real cultural differences about what’s allowable at graduation ceremonies.
But how to enforce decorum when shame is prohibited?