Diplomas withheld for "excessive celebrating" - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Diplomas withheld for "excessive celebrating"

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EAST RIDGE, TN (WRCB) -

Nearly a week after graduation, more than a dozen East Ridge High School graduates are still waiting to receive their diplomas, after they were withheld by the school. School administrators withheld the diplomas after they say the students excessively celebrated as they crossed the stage, but parents call the move harsh and unnecessary.

Ja'Michael Yates is one of the affected students, he now volunteers at the Community Kitchen in Chattanooga not only to serve the community, but to earn his diploma.

It's community service Yates is required to complete before East Ridge High School will give him the diploma he spent the last four years earning.

“I have never heard of such a thing, so it kind of took me back a little bit,” Yates’ Mother Wendy Smith said.

Yates is one of 15 students required to perform community service, after what the school calls excessive celebration at Saturday’s graduation ceremony.

Cell phone video shows Yates dance across the stage after his name was called. He was later surprised to learn as a punishment he'd have to put in 15 hours of community service.

Yates said he was surprised his actions would create an issue.

"It wouldn't really apply to me but apparently it did and now I had to get these volunteer hours,” Yates said.

However, school officials say Yates should not have been surprised. Seniors had to sign a contract before receiving their cap and gown.

In the document, students agree to inform family and friends of their obligation to show respect and good conduct during the ceremony. It also states, "I understand that if I fail to comply, the consequences may result in my diploma being held..."

Principal Tammy Helton said students were given clear graduation conduct guidelines in writing and in person during graduation practice.

She told Channel 3 "Graduation is for all students and every parent, not just for the few who wanted to act differently."

Yates' mother said the instructions were open to interpretation and the entire situation has taken away from the excitement of her son's achievement. ?

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