June 13 was the date scheduled for the Quincy High School Class of 2017 commencement ceremony. With the scorching hot weather and absence of rain the whole week, students were sure graduation day would take place outside at Veterans’ Memorial Stadium. With clear skies, temperatures in the mid 90s and a slight chance of rain during the graduation ceremony, seniors and their families were surprised and confused to receive a phone call from Quincy High School the morning of graduation. Due to weather concerns, graduation would be held inside the Quincy High School gymnasium.
As soon as the graduating seniors heard this message, they were outraged. The chance of rain was less than 50 percent in the morning, and as the day progressed the percentage decreased to 10 percent. Having the graduation indoors meant many families, friends and even coworkers could no longer attend. Each graduating senior was only allowed to bring four guests. With the decision made with very short notice and uncertainty, the seniors felt angry and disrespected.
“I just know this is a difficult decision. But as students, we are the number one important factor of this entire thing. Without us, there is no graduation and I feel like this was a terrible decision, made way too early,” said one senior who would be graduating that night.
Around 11:00 that morning, a small group of seniors gathered at the administration building to discuss the issue with Principal Lawrene Taglieri. Word of this soon caught on, and in just an hour, over 50 seniors, as well as Superintendent of Quincy Public Schools Richard DeCristofaro, were gathered as well. Seniors at this discussion said they were not being listened to and constantly talked over by the administration. Petitions to move the ceremony outdoors started to circulate amongst the seniors and were being sent to the superintendent and principal. An NBC news van was parked outside the school.
After the students realized they weren’t being heard or taken seriously, they started to protest. They marched over to City Hall and back to the school chanting, “My diploma, my choice." Afterwards, the principal opened the school for the seniors to see the gymnasium set up with chairs in hopes of appeasing them.
One graduating senior said, “I feel disrespected. There are people who have spent four years at this school just to be slapped in the face and to not have all their family come. And there are only two fans. Two fans, no AC. And no one is allowed to wear shorts.”
Designed to hold around 200 people, the gymnasium would hold over four times as many people. The seniors offered to help set up the field at Veterans’ Stadium themselves to move the ceremony outside. Kids and even some parents volunteered to load up their cars with chairs and to help set up the graduation outdoors. However, to no avail, Principal Taglieri would not budge.
Despite acknowledging that “there's no better setting than Veterans’ Memorial Stadium to commemorate graduations for our kids,” he did add that he “worries about the heat.”
“I always want to make [the graduating class] happy and it's not easy," Principal Taglieri told Fresh U. "However, for safety reasons and the weather I can't predict, that decision had to be made.”
Lead Image Credit: Lucia Buzzell