CINCINNATI- Both sides of the Mt. Healthy graduation flap appear to be digging in their heels.
Mt. Healthy City Schools superintendent Lori Handler responded Tuesday to anger expressed by the Cornist family after high school senior Anthony Cornist was denied his diploma because of excessive cheering during the ceremony.
Instead of a diploma, Anthony was given a letter from the principal stating he and/or his family needed to complete 20 hours of community service before he could receive his sheepskin from Mt. Healthy Senior High School.
Handler says the family's cheering disrupted the ceremony, which was held at the Vineyard Community Church May 24. (Video of the graduation can be viewed in the media player to the left).
"We had four families unfortunately, who were excessive, and we had to stop graduation," she said.
Each time commencement resumed after the cheering died down.
"In order for [the students whose families were disruptive] to graduate, to receive their diplomas, they are going to have to do some community service," Handler said.
Why stop the ceremony because of cheering?
"Had I not said to the people who were calling names, 'Stop,' the succeeding child's name would not have been heard," Handler said.
She says it wasn't the volume. It was the duration of the cheering that was the problem.
"In years past, we have had students whose families got over-exuberant and the child behind them's name could not be heard when they were called," Handler said. "So I feel very strongly that we will stop graduation because every child's name will be heard and every family will be able to celebrate appropriately."
She says that vast majority of graduation attendees were respectful.
"I can't tell you how many families said to me, 'Thank you so much, I was so fearful I wouldn't hear my child's name called,'" Handler said.
She says no one should have been surprised about the consequences of bad behavior.
"Parents did know all this information up front," she said. "They signed off saying I understand that this is what's going to happen."
Handler says the Cornists signed the agreement with the school to conduct themselves appropriately.
Traci Cornist says if she signed it, she never read it.
She claims she was unaware of the policy, even thought she admitted to posting a message to Facebook stating, "We showed so much Support...That maybe we are about to be escorted out the building...Who cares my baby just graduated!"
Whether the document or holding a student responsible for the actions of others is legal is not clear.
"Legally, he has graduated and he will receive his diploma," Handler said. "That's not an issue at all...This is just a rule, an expectation that we set and we expect the parents to follow through on it."
At no time, Handler says, did the students themselves get out of hand.
"The kids were angelic," she said.
Both Traci Cornist and her son argue that if Anthony did nothing wrong, he shouldn't be punished with community service.
Handler says maybe the family could serve the entire 20 hours.
"Certainly, if they want to talk to [Mt. Healthy Senior High School principal] Mr. Styles about that, and they want to fulfill that, I'm sure that we could work that out," Handler said.
Traci Cornist said she was unwilling to do that.
It's hard to say how long the standoff could go on.
Anthony Cornist is worried the lack of his diploma could affect his future employment and college plans.
Handler fears letting the family off would send the wrong message.
"I think it's lessons learned in terms of proper decorum," Handler said.
The students are considered legal graduates, and are free to use their transcripts as they apply for college or jobs, Handler told the Associated Press.
She also told the AP the other penalized students aren't resisting, and that one had already completed community service to receive a diploma by Thursday. She declined to release names or other information on them.