WAYNE, NJ — Students at Wayne Valley High School have started a petition calling on teachers and administrators to set aside their differences on graduation day.
Some teachers have decided not to participate in graduation ceremonies because of ongoing disputes with the administration.
"You can have your differences but this is not the time or place," said Katie Pavlak, a graduating senior who started the petition and whose father serves on the Wayne Board of Education.
Pavlak says teachers are the reason students made it to graduation. So far, about 360 students have signed the petition to say they want teachers present and playing a role at the graduation ceremony.
But teachers say they will be present to cheer on their students, they just won't be volunteering to hand out programs or to call names.
"We want to be there to support our students," said Eda Ferrante, president of the Wayne Education Association and a high school teacher.
Teachers say they won't be on the field for graduation, instead they will cheer from the stands.
Wayne educators say they're doing it because they feel disrespected and undervalued by their most senior bosses. They claim the superintendent and top district officials have taken a heavy-handed approach toward teacher discipline.
"Everything you do is under a microscope," said first grade teacher Donna Reaver. "With the way the administration has handled disciplinary actions, you become fearful."
The district says there have recently been 23 cases of teacher discipline. Some include serious complaints, like child abuse or medical neglect, leaving the district with no other choice but to take action.
"We’re doing our jobs," said Wayne Schools Superintendent Mark Toback. "We really strongly believe that students should not be put in the middle of all that."
Graduation for Wayne high school seniors is set for June 25.