MCMINN COUNTY, TN. (WRCB) -- McMinn County graduate Brianna Carroll joined her 300 plus fellow students on May 19 for graduation.
Like every year prior, many students decided to put their personal touch on their cap for the special day.
However this year, school officials weren't having it.
"We're going to decorate our caps anyway because we paid for them," says Carroll.
She says the superintendent warned the students in advance not to decorate their caps.
"He goes, 'remember I have your diploma, I have the trump card'," explains Carroll.
At graduation a teacher warned them again.
"She said you can take it off, you can get a new one or you can do community service. If I'm going to take it off, I'm not going to sit with everybody else wearing their caps and me not wear my cap that I paid for," Carroll says.
However, she didn't know school officials were playing hard ball and meant what they said. Diplomas were withheld and the students faced five hours of community service.
Graduates tell Channel 3 more than 50 diplomas were withheld after graduation, but school officials say less than a dozen have community service.
School Superintendent David Pierce refused to talk to our cameras but tells Channel 3 this year the decorations were becoming more than what they expected and the school wanted to maintain the decorum of the graduation.
A McMinn County attorney says he may not agree with it but if the students were warned ahead of time, then the school is free to take disciplinary action.
Superintendent Pierce says the students who have showed up to do their community service have worked for about an hour.