Police, public schools officials brace for graduation ceremonies

Friday, May 20, 2011 at 4:20pm

Metro police and public school officials hope to provide a strong visible presence and crack down on distractions for the various high school and college graduations set for the coming days.

The bulk of graduation ceremonies are set to begin Friday evening and continue though next week.

Metro Nashville Public Schools’ Ralph Thompson, assistant superintendent for Student Services, said he has heard of no specific threats.

“We anticipate no problems,” he said. “We’ve gotten no tips or calls or anything. We want to be very proactive, and we want people to come out and enjoy [the graduations].”

Police spokesman Don Aaron said precinct commanders have developed specific plans for each school holding graduation ceremonies under their watch.

Aaron said police would take a “no-nonsense approach” regarding disruptive behavior, gang colors and gang signs. “No disruptions whatsoever will be tolerated,” Aaron said.

Thompson asked graduation attendees to leave signs, banners and noise-making devices (i.e. air horns) at home because often such “celebratory tools” cause distractions while students are receiving their diplomas or addressing the graduating classes.

Officers providing security at the ceremonies will also have lists of students (and, in some cases, photos) who have been expelled or who should otherwise not be allowed to attend graduation.

“We’re living in a different set of times now, and we just want to take precautions,” Thompson said.

Two years ago, Andreus Taylor, 21, was shot to death outside of Tennessee State University’s Gentry Center following the Maplewood High School graduation. Last February a grand jury indicted Rondarius Lorenzo Williamson, 18 at the time of the shooting, on first-degree murder, felony reckless endangerment and aggravated assault.

Williamson is still awaiting trial in the case.