These days social media is filled with photographs of proud parents, standing with their graduates in cap and gown, beaming with pride.
We were struck by one such photo over the weekend in our feed: a graduate we know, posing with his mom and dad with an unlit cigar in his mouth. He’s a good baseball player, and his team is headed to the postseason tournament.
A day later, we saw the news reports that seven Saugus High School student-athletes — six lacrosse players and a baseball player — were being suspended from postseason games because they were caught smoking cigars at graduation. By now, you’ve likely seen the well-circulated photo of the students puffing on stogies in celebration of their achievements.
There’s been a lot of debate about the issue on social media, and in online comments on the stories we’ve seen. There are hardliners who say a rule is a rule. Student-athletes sign a document saying they will abstain from tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. They know what the rules are, and these student-athletes took a calculated risk and lost. They deserve to be punished, the hardliners say.
Then there are those who say that Saugus High had a tradition. Some students would tuck a cigar underneath their gowns, and when the ceremony was over and their diplomas were safely in their hands, they would pull out the cigars and light them up. There is a school of thought that administrators turning a blind eye to this past practice set a precedent for what happened over the weekend. Because it was tradition and the school rules had never been enforced, the student-athletes should not be punished, some of the commenters conclude.
So why are we writing about this? It happened in Saugus, a boat ride and a long ride north of Boston, away from the Vineyard.
We write about it as a cautionary tale to the students at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School who will graduate on Sunday. (By the way, that photo we saw on our own social media feed of a graduate with an unlit cigar? It’s vanished, likely deleted by parents worried their son might face the same plight as the Saugus kids.)
There are Vineyard teams in the postseason, and should they win this week, they could very well be playing into next week. And, in case you’re wondering, MVRHS has the same policy in its handbook that is forcing the Saugus students to the sidelines.
Here it is: “From the first allowable day of fall practice, through the end of the academic year or final athletic competition of the year, whichever is later, a student shall not, regardless of the quantity, use, consume, possess, buy/sell, or give away any beverage containing alcohol; any tobacco product; marijuana; steroids, vaping; or any controlled substance. This policy includes products such as ‘NA or near beer.’ It is not a violation for a student to be in possession of a legally defined drug specifically prescribed for the student’s own use by his/her doctor. This rule represents only a minimum standard upon which schools may develop more stringent requirements. This MIAA statewide minimum standard is not intended to render ‘guilty by association,’ e.g. many student-athletes might be present at a party where only a few violate this standard.”
There are quite a few people who say the graduates at Saugus High should have been reminded of the policy, that they should have been warned that the practice of lighting up a cigar, which had been tolerated in the past, was no longer going to be allowed.
Don’t take a chance, MVRHS graduates. Find another way to safely celebrate this Sunday, and enjoy this big moment in life’s journey.