‘Rite Idea: It’s Not Worth It

We should not protest the administration tomorrow because of our disappointment and emotions


Ainsley Snyder

The protest tomorrow starts at noon at the administration building and is set to walk, each participant at arms length apart, around the oval

“In response to the uncaring way that Shaker Heights City Schools District has dismissed the Graduation [of the] Class of 2020, the parents and students have planned a peaceful protest of the Shaker Heights City School District.”

So begins the message circulating among parents and the class of 2020 through email, text and social media. The message calls people to gather for a protest tomorrow at noon to confront the administration about the “hurt they have caused” by “dismissing” commencement and prom.

But this protest is dangerous and will do more harm than good.

While it is disappointing, frustrating and sad that the class of 2020 will end their high school careers inside their homes, watching on a computer screen as their names are called rather than celebrating in the State Theater, it is a necessary sacrifice for the greater good of our community.

It isn’t the administration’s fault that we are not allowed to gather in large groups. It isn’t even Gov. Mike DeWine’s fault. If anything is to blame, it is nature for giving rise to the novel coronavirus.

If we all gather in protest, even staying “arms length” — which is not guaranteed to be 6 feet — we escalate the risk of catching COVID-19 and spreading it to members of our community. Students, parents, grandparents, teachers, friends —  anyone is at risk of contracting and transmitting the virus. When people later develop COVID-19,  our protest will have set even more seriously ill patients to community hospitals, further endangered healthcare workers and, ultimately, caused even greater grief and suffering for those who fall ill and their families.  

DeWine’s preventative actions made Ohio a leader in responding to COVID-19. By following his orders, such as closing schools and restaurants and not going out for anything deemed nonessential, we are helping to flatten the curve and lessen further spread of the virus.

“Unfortunately, the governor has given every indication that large group gatherings will be prohibited well into the summer and possibly beyond,” Superintendent David Glasner said in an April 23 video announcement in which he explained the district’s decision. “And he continues to encourage districts to seek out alternatives to commencements. The governor has even raised doubts about whether Ohio’s schools will begin classes as normal next school year.”

Principal Eric Juli posted a video message to seniors on Instagram after the announcement about virtual commencement. “Our state is still closed. And our governor has made it clear that large group gatherings aren’t OK, and he’s put what happens in the fall in doubt also,” he said.

“What if we wait,” Juli continued. “What if we wait, and we can’t then offer you the best virtual graduation possible? What if we wait and you get even less? I can’t bear to offer you less than you are already getting.”

Will it really help the seniors to send tentative dates out for prom and graduation? What if COVID-19 continues to spread and become more dangerous? Seniors and their families will only endure another let down, and all these emotions will return. 

Wouldn’t we rather have something to commemorate the seniors’ hard work than nothing at all?

Scheduling more dates for August in hopes that COVID-19 is eradicated is just avoiding the inevitable. Why continue to get your hopes up and be let down? We have been calling for the administration to be more realistic and transparent as it serves the community, and it is hypocritical for us to tear them down for doing something we have begged for. In previous years, we would have never received these messages from superintendents, but Glasner wanted to communicate with the community and explain why.

And what about immunosuppressed seniors and their families? If COVID-19 is still a crisis, it is irresponsible for us to ignore it and hurt members of our own community. Holding commencement online ensures those students and their families can safely be honored for their hard work.

The Editorial Board does not in any way suggest that virtual commencement is better than an in-person ceremony. However, if watching videos of ourselves in caps and gowns and hearing our names called over Chromebook speakers helps keep our community and our students safe, we should embrace online commencement and run with it. 

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