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High School Defies Social Distancing Rules And Holds In-Person Graduation Ceremony

Caitlyn Clancey 22 May 2020

A U.S. high school has come under fire after recently live-streaming an in-person graduation ceremony to its Facebook page where it was revealed that hundreds of staff, students, and family members attended the event despite ongoing social distancing rules.

According to CNN, Community Christian School in Norman, Oklahoma insists it had city approval to host the commencement while other schools across the country have moved theirs online or postponed them indefinitely. However, the city manager himself would have to disagree.

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On Saturday, May 16, hundreds of attendees filled the high school's gymnasium to watch the senior students receive their diplomas.

KFOR

Although the event was live-streamed through the school's Facebook page, (a video which has since been removed), some 600 people came out to witness the ceremony in person. Around 300 of those guests sat shoulder-to-shoulder in packed seats on the floor.

"People wore masks but not everybody was required to wear masks, obviously, but people did wear masks," Matt Cox, the school's assistant principal, told KFOR.

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Each graduating senior was given 12 tickets to hand out to their friends and family members so they could attend.

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Those who physically showed up had their temperatures taken at the door, but no other safety measures were taken to prevent the spread of the virus.

Barbara Ohsfeldt, the school's principal, told CNN they were given permission by the city to hold the ceremony. But this doesn't necessarily seem to be the case.

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Annahlyse Meyer, spokeswoman for the city of Norman, told a much different story.

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As she explained, the high school wasn't given "permission" so much as it was given an "acknowledgement" of the fact that the city of Norman doesn't actually have jurisdiction to regulate the school's graduation ceremony.

In fact, City Manager Darrel Pyle told CNN he was "disappointed to learn through social media" that the school's ceremony hadn't followed any sort of social distancing rule, adding that the city isn't granting one-off approvals to anyone.

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Assistant Principal Cox said the school's decision to go ahead with the ceremony had a lot to do with the state allowing churches to reopen on May 1.

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"Churches are allowed to be open and we definitely shared the gospel [during the commencement]," he told KFOR. “It was a church service type event as well too, another reason why we were definitely within the guidelines.”

“We just felt like we really did our part to follow all the guidelines,” he continued. “We had permission from anybody and everybody that we needed so we had the graduation.”

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The city of Norman is currently still in “Phase 1B” of its “Healthier at Home Initiative”.

KFOR

As per this phase, residents are still encouraged to stay home when possible, resist gathering in groups of 10 people or more, and maintain a safe social distance from others. However, despite all this Cox is still adamant the school got every permission necessary to host the event.

“We constantly kicked around where and how and when we saw things were going to start to be opening back up and we hit that phase two area when we were supposed to have graduation anyway," he explained to KFOR. "It was time.”

h/t: CNN, KFOR

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