A Meadowdale High School senior saw his proposal to his girlfriend at their graduation last weekend as a romantic gesture. The school saw it as a disruption and temporarily withheld his diploma.
Jack Graham wanted to propose to Rachael Green in front of both their families and all their friends. But he wasn’t sure how he could pop the question to his girlfriend of more than two years in front of so many people without her, or anyone else, knowing it was coming.
Earlier this year, he realized he had the perfect opportunity: their graduation from Meadowdale High School.
Graham and Green, both 18, have been a dating since they were 15, when they were sophomores. They were in three classes together. They’ve talked about marriage from the beginning.
“We already knew we were going to be with each other for the rest of our lives,” Graham said.
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The Lynnwood school allows students to choose whom they sit next to at graduation, so of course they signed up together — although, alphabetically, they would have been next to each other anyway. Graham insisted on going before her.
At Saturday’s 300-plus senior graduation, Green jokingly told her boyfriend not to trip. But after his name was called, and then hers, she looked over and saw that he had somehow fallen down.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, he’s fallen at graduation!’ My heart broke for him,” she recalls. “I said, ‘Are you OK?’”
It was all part of the plan. He sat up and said, “Either I’m just tripping, or I fall for you every day.” Then, amid yells and clapping from classmates seated a few feet away, he pulled out a ring and asked her to marry him. She said yes.
“It was a perfect proposal,” he said. “Everyone was watching me.”
The school wasn’t quite as enthused. When the newly betrothed went to pick up their diplomas Monday, staff members told Graham they were withholding his.
School leaders saw the proposal, however romantic, as a disruption.
Nobody but Graham knew about his plan, and the reaction drowned out the names of the students who came after them, said district spokeswoman Debbie Joyce Jakala. So they wanted him to write a letter to those students and, according to Graham, the staff members told him he would have to pull weeds on the school campus over the summer.
After KIRO 7’s Jesse Jones called the district, Graham got his diploma, no letters or weed-pulling needed. But he did apologize to the students on Jones’ news segment.
Graham admits he probably should have talked to school administrators before to see if they would have allowed him to propose. Maybe he would have gone second-to-last, so he and Green would be the last two to have their names called.
“Then that wouldn’t have ruined anybody else’s moment behind us,” he said. “But other than that, the moment was perfect.”
A reminder for other high-school sweethearts: Jakala says popping the question is not allowed at graduations.
“The ceremonies are very scripted,” she said.