Mississippi Family Faces Jail Time for Cheering at High School Graduation

Family members could spend six months in jail or pay a fine of $500 after cheering for graduating relatives.

Editor’s Note: February 2, 2016
After uncovering misattributed quotes in stories written by Juan Thompson, a former staff reporter, The Intercept conducted a review of his work. We were unable to reach one individual quoted in this piece, Henry Walker. The rest of the quotes were confirmed.


When Ursula Miller attended her niece’s high school graduation from Senatobia High School in northwestern Mississippi last month, she didn’t expect to leave with an arrest warrant.

But in a prime example of excessesive criminalization, Miller and three others were charged with disorderly conduct for cheering on their relatives during the ceremony held at Northwest Mississippi Community College.

“All I said was ‘Lakaydra,’” Miller told me, referring to her niece Lakaydra Hearn.

Henry Walker was also there, along with his wife, Linda, to celebrate their daughter Lanarcia’s graduation.

“When she walked across the stage I yelled, ‘You did it baby girl!’ That was it,” Walker said.

According to local station WREG, which first reported the story, Senatobia School District Superintendent Jay Foster asked the crowd of approximately 200 to hold their applause and joyous screams until the end, otherwise they would be asked to leave.

But Miller and Walker didn’t actually expect to be escorted out, and they certainly didn’t expect to have warrants issued for their arrests.

Foster had security remove the four people who disobeyed his warnings, and then a week later, pressed charges in Tate County, Mississippi against the commencement-goers for disturbing the peace.

“I was shocked, it was disbelief,” Walker said.

The four will appear in county court next week. They face six months in jail or a possible fine of $500.

The Senatobia School District declined comment. 

“I don’t have $500 to give to Tate County and I sure as hell don’t want to go to jail,” Miller said. “This is beyond ridiculous.”

Photo: WREG

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