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Every year, school officials request that family members hold their cheers and applause until after all graduating students' names have been called. Every year, nobody listens.
This year, one school Superintendent got serious. He pressed criminal charges against one student's family members for cheering.
That was not a typo.
At Senatobia High School's graduation, families and friends were told to hold their cheering and applause until after all the graduates had finished crossing the stage, or they would be removed from the ceremony.
But, when Lanarcia Walker's name was called, her father (some reports identify him as her brother), Henry Walker, couldn't hold it in. He had to yell, "You did it, baby!" Other family members also cheered. The family was quickly escorted out of the celebration.
Much to their surprise, Henry and some other relatives were later served with criminal charges for disturbing the peace.
Mississippi's disturbing the peace statute is actually titled "Disturbance in public place," and states, "any person who shall enter any public place ... and while therein or thereon shall create a disturbance, or a breach of the peace, in any way whatsoever, including, ... loud and offensive talk ... shall be guilty of a misdemeanor."
Loud and Offensive?
The statute says "loud and offensive." The cheering probably was loud. It wouldn't have attracted any attention if it wasn't. But, was the cheering also offensive? The meaning of the phrase "You did it, baby" is pretty innocuous. It wasn't racist or derogatory or harassing. Not terribly offensive.
However, Senatobia school district Superintendent Jay Foster may argue that the cheering was offensive to other parents and students who could not hear their names being called. Foster claims that the cheering affected the dignity of the ceremony, and one student flinched at the cheering. Do you agree that the cheering was offensive?
If convicted, Lanarcia Walker's realatives may face a fine up to $500 and up to six months in jail.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.