Petition: Red Lion's graduation plans lack necessary pomp

Students from Red Lion Area High School take part in their graduation ceremony Friday, May 31, 2019. J. Kelley Dentry photo

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition asking Red Lion Area School District to come up with a more "meaningful" alternative to its graduation plans.

The district's graduation ceremony has been replaced by a virtual commencement with a picture slideshow to account for restrictions in place because of COVID-19.

"We the taxpayers, families and friends of the RED LION AREA HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 2020 think these young people who have worked so hard towards a once in a LIFETIME event deserve more than a recorded speech and a montage of pictures," the petition reads.

As of about 4 p.m. Tuesday, a petition addressed to high school Principal Mark Shue and Superintendent Scott Deisley had 1,208 signatures — and a goal set for 1,500.

Districts throughout York County have spent weeks devising alternative plans amid the coronavirus lockdown. Some are holding out for in-person ceremonies this summer. 

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Others such as Dallastown Area and Northeastern school districts have opted for socially limited options with timed arrivals alongside virtual events to give students a chance to grab their diplomas or take a photo on campus.

Red Lion's plan, released May 8 via an emailed letter from Shue, does not diverge too far from other districts' virtual plans.

A prerecorded program would be streamed to students and families at 6:45 p.m. June 5, the original date of graduation — but the notable difference would be no students on school grounds.

District spokesperson Don Dimoff said he was aware of the petition but noted that district officials chose the best option they could considering health restrictions.

“Based on the information that we’ve been given by our solicitors and the parameters from the state, we’re doing what we can,” he said. “We’re trying to adapt and adjust as we go based on what we’re able to do."

Dimoff said officials are only doing on campus what they have interpreted as essential under the governor’s orders and health guidelines, such as providing school lunches.

Students receiving caps and gowns on campus would not be essential, and therefore the district is planning to mail them directly to students instead.

An “open house” is tentatively planned for students to meet classmates in person, take a final walk through the school and take pictures in caps and gowns on June 19 instead —and several other districts throughout the county have proposed similar ideas for summer or later.

Students from Red Lion Area High School take part in their graduation ceremony Friday, May 31, 2019. J. Kelley Dentry photo

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Red Lion’s is among 30 petitions signed by students and parents in districts throughout Pennsylvania calling for in-person graduations or other alternatives, according to an email from spokesperson Amanda Mustafic.

Two petitions also are addressed to Penn State University officials, who have planned virtual ceremonies for all the school's campuses, including Penn State York.

More than 500 petitions have upward of 550,000 signatures nationwide in what has become a strong movement,'s managing director of campaigns Michael Jones saidin a statement.

"The biggest trend on right now is being led by hundreds of students, urging high school and colleges to reschedule or postpone graduations canceled by COVID-19," he said. "There are petitions from almost every state, signed by thousands of students who don't want their senior years to disappear without some kind of recognition."