For the past three years, Sandpoint High School Principal Becky Kiebert has received a few gifts from seniors during graduation ceremonies, but they were not gifts of gratitude.
Some students handed her condoms. Last year it was Hawaiian leis. This year’s pranks included an attempted kiss on the lips by a student who was acting on a dare. “It was totally inappropriate,” said Kiebert. A police investigation led to a charge of unwanted touching against the student.
Sandpoint’s principal is not the only one harassed during graduation ceremonies. According to Kiebert, Post Falls High School Principal Dena Naccarato received inappropriate gifts from two students at this year’s ceremony.
Both Kiebert and Naccarato recently attended a meeting with colleagues and shared their experiences. Most students behave appropriately, Kiebert said.
“Ninety nine percent of these kids are great,” said Kiebert.
Lake Pend Oreille School Superintendent Dick Cvitanich agrees, but said it is not uncommon to have a few people participate in these pranks.
“I have attended many graduations in my 34 years of education. I have seen good behavior, poor behavior, and everything in between from both kids and parents,” said Cvitanich. “I would not say this graduation was disrespectful. There were a handful of kids who acted inappropriately when their moment came on the stage. This, unfortunately, happens from time to time. The vast majority of students were respectful and appropriate.”
Those students who are being punished this year include a student who is performing school service while another is watching a video on appropriate conduct and must write a public letter of apology to be published in a local newspaper. The third student will have to answer to the unwanted touching charge.
To make sure this doesn’t happen again, Kiebert plans to have students sign statements agreeing that if they do anything inappropriate they will not receive their diploma at the ceremony. Inappropriate behavior will include presenting any so-called gifts to anyone on stage. Also, Kiebert, who has always been the person who has greeted the students on stage, will remain seated as the superintendent and a member of the school board present the diplomas.
“We will also have an SRO (school resource officer) at the bottom of the stage,” said Kiebert.
Above all, Kiebert said she will emphasize to the students that graduation is not necessarily about them, but is an opportunity to recognize and thank others who have helped them through their years of education and to thank them respectfully.
“I tell them it’s about their parents, grandparents and the community. All the people who have supported them,” said Kiebert.