Think it's tough in this economy? Try being a parent of one of the seniors graduating from high school this month. College tuition bills are already piling up on the dining room table, and now the high school is trying to nickel and dime you while they still can. They get you good on graduation day -- from the cost of that cap and gown to the price of those announcements.
But this may be the craziest story I've heard yet. A parent told me her kid's school won't let parents take pictures of their own kids at graduation. They hold them over their heads ... until they pay for them.
I thought she was kidding. What is this I asked? A museum? One of those theme parks where you can't bring your camera, but they have tons of characters walking around, followed by folks with cameras in hand, so your kids can beg for a hug, and they'll snap a picture ... which you'll then be stuck buying for $19.95?
No, no, she said. It's for real. The school holds them all over a barrel until they can fish out some cash. And by cash, it's not just a few dollars. The photos come in packages. The same sort you get when your kid has her school photo taken mid-year, the optional photos that get sent home. And these are optional too, of course. Only, this is a once in a lifetime moment, and the school says you can't take your own photo of your own kid.
The idea is so foreign to me that at first I laughed. I'll cover a graduation tonight for the local paper. It's one I've photographed year after year for the paper, and every year there is a professional photographer on hand that the school hires. But parents are allowed to mosey on up too, so they can skip the high cost option in favor of their own family version. Duh! They're the parents. It's their kid!
Which got me thinking. My friend has four kids. When her daughter graduated, she took her own photos. She asked me for some of my photos. She was looking at paying for a graduation party. She'd just paid for a cap and gown, for a dress for graduation. She was paying for college (although with a smart daughter, scholarships were a help). And she still had three mouths at home to feed. Every little bit she could save was worth it. That one little savings was a big deal.
And suddenly, I went from laughing to angry. For some kids, graduation is the biggest moment of their lives. Not all kids go on to college. Not all kids will get married. Not all kids were athletes who had their pictures in the local paper or have gotten a whole lot of recognition from their families over the years. Not all families can afford a "package of photos."
Graduation is about the kids, not about money. How petty can a school get? Should public schools be able to ban parents from taking pictures of their own kids?
Image via Tulane Public Relations/Flickr