Detroit, MI

Michigan House, Senate Approve Exemptions for Graduations

Matthew Donnellon
Photo by Chichi Onyekanne on Unsplash

This spring commencement ceremonies will not have to adhere to capacity limits set forth by Gov. Whitmer due to the Covid-19 pandemic if Michigan Republicans get their way..

The Detroit News posted yesterday, “The Republican-controlled Senate supported the proposal 21-15 as GOP legislators argued that graduations are a tradition that should be preserved despite concerns that large events risk spreading coronavirus infections. The GOP-led House later passed the legislation in a 60-48 vote.”

With it having passed through both the House and the Senate, it heads to the governor’s desk where she will most likely veto the bill.

The bill would be an attempt to force things back to normal and hurry the process along instead of the more measured approach experts favor. Bridge Michigan notes the bill comes just after restrictions drop, “The bill came the same day the state health department issued a new rule, which goes into effect Thursday, that generally drops Michigan's mask rule for outdoor gatherings of 100 or fewer people — a move that will make it easier for parents to host backyard graduation parties but one that would likely have little effect on schools' commencement ceremonies.”

Rep. Ann Bollin, a Republican, sponsored the House bill because the three schools in her district wouldn’t be able to have a traditional graduation ceremony, “But schools have proven they can educate students safely, she said, and graduates deserved a chance to observe their commencement after their 2020 colleagues were deprived of their ceremony.”

I don’t know if Rep. Bollin has ever been to a high school graduation but there is a world of difference between a commencement ceremony and keeping kids socially distant in a classroom setting.

This bill is political grandstanding at best, and irresponsible and potentially dangerous at worst.

Rep. Darrin Camilleri highlighted the problems with this kind of thinking, “"We are literally months away from life back to normal," Camilleri said. "We have an opportunity in this chamber to just say that we will address the ongoing opportunities for recovery from this pandemic and not choose to fight battles that are not ours. This bill before us today is choosing a fight that we don’t need to have.”

And the bill is largely useless, as Bobby Leddy, a spokesman for the governor pointed out. There is really nothing preventing in-person graduations. Yes, there are some restrictions in place, but over the last two years people have been able to figure things out.

Michigan opened up Michigan Stadium to allow for socially distant groups to attend graduations. Michigan State had a series of little outdoor ceremonies. Some schools are having graduation in or near the parking lot which would let families in cars see their sons or daughters graduated.

Michigan just saw what happened when you opened things up too quickly. For weeks the state was the Covid hotspot for the whole country.

Yes some kids will not be able to have a traditional ceremony. But politics shouldn’t get in the way of safety, “Keeping our students, educators and communities safe isn’t a political talking point – it must be our top priority as a state,” the teacher’s union director of public affairs said.

Hopefully, some politicians trying to score points doesn’t put people in danger.

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Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories

Detroit, MI

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