It's not uncommon for high school seniors to try to make themselves stand out from the crowd during graduation ceremonies, maybe with something benign like writing "Hi Mom" on their robes or doing a funny dance on the walk across stage. But one small-town Alabama student immortalized the moment and got more than he bargained for en route to receiving his diploma — a trip to jail.
In the short walk across stage, Joseph Bryan Shore, 18, elicited more than boos when he allegedly cursed out his family and flipped the bird to the crowd, according to authorities. Immediately after the ceremony, two police officers took him into custody and charged him with disorderly conduct.
Arab, Ala. assistant police chief Jeff Bailey said he had never seen anything like it before.
"This is a small town, a little quiet place," Bailey said. "He basically disrupted the whole graduation with his hollering and cursing."
The Arab Police department said the police report of the incident has now been sealed but excerpts of the police report published in The ArabTribune.com last week stated that Shore resisted police attempts to restrain him.
"Shore was cursing school staff, and, as Sgt. [Gina] Smith and Sgt. [Lauren] Harnack approached, it appeared the subject was about to run," according to the excerpt. "Smith advised him to place his hands behind his back, but he began resisting."
The principal of Arab City High School, Patrick Crowder, said he regretted the incident but that he had no choice other than to have Shore arrested.
"I wish that it hadn't happened," Crowder said of the incident, but added, "I had to act and feel like I did the right thing. … I had to send a message to our seniors and those in the stands. We really wanted a dignified ceremony."
But dignified was not exactly what they got. So while other graduates marched out to Pomp and Circumstance and gathered on the football field for celebratory hugs and pictures with grandma, Shore was arrested, handcuffed and whisked off to jail by police, which did not sit well with his parents.
An excerpt of the police report published by the Arabtribune.com, described the Shore family as "irate because he was under arrest. Several times they had to be told to calm down and back off."
Shore's father, Terry Shore, is outraged and calls the incident at last week's graduation a "trap." He thinks his son, who had clashed with school administrators for behavioral issues before, was targeted unfairly.
"They want my son to go to prison, they want my son to suffer," Shore said of the school administration. "Because as far as they are concerned, they were supposed to get him a long time ago."
Crowder maintains the arrest was a reasonable response.
"For all of our seniors and their parents, we certainly regret that this unfortunate incident took place," Crowder said in an email statement. "However, based on the severity and nature of the actions by the student, we had no other recourse but to involve the authorities. It was the right thing for us to do under the circumstances. This isolated incident is not reflective of our school, our students, their families, or our community."
Shore said that his son, who goes by Bryan, is a "problem child" who acts spontaneously, but that he is no criminal.
"If giving the bird was a crime, you wouldn't be able to build enough prisons to house everyone; there would be repeat offenders on death row," Terry Shore said, incredulously.
He is concerned that the incident will hurt his son, who hopes to join the Navy in the fall. He said the episode was a "mole hill made into a mountain," and has been mischaracterized by the local media. TheArabtribune.com reported that the younger Shore "took a swing" at the principal. But Crowder and school superintendent John Mullins, who was standing right next to him, denied that report.
Regardless of the details of the incident, for the Shore family, who can now add the mug shot of their son in a graduation gown to the family album, the damage has already been done.
"This was supposed to be the happiest day of Bryan's life," Terry Shore said of the graduation "It might never be over. We don't know how the community will react."