Deciphering the “Updated” Guidance regarding Graduations and Ceremonies

To Our School Board Community:

We have been trying to anticipate and quickly respond to your questions during this time, given the unprecedented challenges presented to our Boards with COVID-19 and the related school closures. 

  • On May 8, 2020, the New Jersey Department of Education issued a memo clarifying that there should continue to be no in-person gatherings, including graduations and proms.
  • In Addition, on May 9, 2020, Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police and State Director of Emergency Management issued a letter to the New Jersey Department of Education and all Public and Non-Public Schools. Colonel Callahan’s letter notes:

that pursuant to Executive Order 107, in-person ceremonies, including graduations, all parades, including “wave parades,” that invite people to gather at a certain location, proms, and other similar celebrations violate the enumerated conditions of the order, and should therefore be cancelled or postponed until such time as these restrictions are lifted. Until such time, virtual celebrations and other remote forms of recognition should take the place of any in-person or public ceremonies.

  • When asked about his letter, Colonel Callahan clarified that what he is discouraging is any kind of gathering on the front lawn of schools, at football stadiums, or town hall. He clarified that schools should not be inviting students and their parents to gather. Colonel Callahan, did confirm that parades where participants drive in their cars to each individual graduate’s home, while the graduate stands on their front porch with their parents, are okay.

In light of the above, we suggest that you begin planning for virtual graduations at this time, and avoid as much as possible, inviting students and their parents to school property, in any way that could be construed as a gathering. Our e-mails about recent developments are not intended to substitute for our legal advice to our clients based on your specific needs or requests.  In addition, our guidance is subject to, and can be superseded by new laws, rules, regulations, or orders.  Moreover, some directives from the Federal and State authorities can appear, and can be, contradictory or in conflict, so please contact us for assistance.

As always, please contact us with any questions. We will continue to do our best to keep you updated in the coming days and weeks.