October 11, 2023 at 4:25 am

‘Them calling a family member to strong-arm me was crossing a line.’ High School Senior Refused To Do Optional Project After The School Threatens His Graduation

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Reddit/AITA/iStock

I feel like not enough people take the fact that you literally never know what’s going on behind closed doors seriously enough.

Even – or maybe especially – when you’re dealing with children.

OP transferred to a new high school as a senior after his parents divorced. He moved out of his mom’s house and in with his dad, determined to finish high school and get on with the rest of his life.

Back in 2013, I was a senior at a high school I had just transferred to. I had moved earlier in the year because my parent got divorced, and I made the deliberate choice to leave my old high school and move in with my dad, attending a new high school.

I won’t go into much detail about the why, but it was my decision to leave my mom, my old school, and my home town in the Bay Area, and move into a small apartment with my dad. This comes up later.

His new school had an “optional” senior project they wanted everyone to complete under the threat of not being able to walk at graduation if they didn’t.

Normally, switching schools isn’t a huge deal, but it was sort-of an abrupt move; I wasn’t able to take any of the AP classes I normally would have taken because they all had mandatory summer projects that I wouldn’t have been able to do in a week. Additionally, a week into the school year, we were told about this stupid senior project they wanted us to do.

In a nutshell, there was some acronym like IMPACT or something, and each letter represented a value of the school. They wanted us to write about how IMPACT had influenced us in our time at the school. We were then told that, should we not do the senior project, we wouldn’t be able to walk for graduation.

OP couldn’t really do the project, since he had no history at the school, and since he didn’t care about walking at graduation he figured it was no big deal.

I heard this and thought it was stupid for a number of reasons – not the least of which being that I had only just gotten there, so their dumb acronym didn’t mean anything to me. I brought this concern up to the lady telling us about the project, and her response was that I just “figure something out, or don’t walk.”

Well okay then.

I brought it up with my dad, asked if he gave a hot damn whether or not I walked for a high school graduation. He did not. So I just figured that I wouldn’t do the project. End of story, right?

Then he was confronted about it once.


Ya see, a few months into this senior project, they did a checkup on every senior. We just lined up in our homeroom to talk to some lady from the principal’s office and told her how close we were to being done. When I walked up, I told her that I wasn’t doing it.

She was confused. “You’re not going to do it? You have to. It’s non-negotiable.”

“No it’s not. I don’t have to do it.”

“But you won’t walk if you don’t do it.”


Then we just sorta stared at each other, and she wrote my name down and shooed me away.

And again.

I correctly assumed that this would not be the last interaction I had regarding this non-issue. Several weeks later, my suspicions were confirmed when I was pulled out of class and brought into the main office.

They ushered me into the vice-principal’s personal office, where she made a bit of a show of pulling out some papers. She told me that the meeting was regarding a misunderstanding I may have had regarding the senior project. She was apparently told that I didn’t know what to do for the assignment, and I chose to boycott the whole thing as a result.

I quickly corrected her, and explained that I very clearly understood what they wanted me to do, but that I thought it was stupid and wasn’t going to do it. I also explained that I understood the penalty, and was fine with it.

She, like the first lady, seemed confused by this course of action, and just let me leave, since there wasn’t really much of a conversation to be had.

And again.

They even called his mom, which was kind of the line in the sand for him, causing him to really dig his heels in.

A few more weeks later, I get pulled out of yet another class for this same thing. Again, I’m brought up to the vice-principle for a one-on-one. When I get there, she looks like the cat that ate the canary.

She begins, “So, I know you were in here awhile ago, and you said you didn’t want to do your senior project…”

“No,” I interrupted, “I said I wasn’t doing the project.”

“Well,” she continued, “we had a chat with your mother over the phone earlier this week. She told us that she really wants you to walk on your graduation.”

I was quiet for a moment.

“Um… I live with my dad.”

“Right, but your mom said she’d like to attend the ceremony and see you walk.”

“I don’t think you get it,” I stated, “I live with my dad for a reason.”

If ever there were an expression the perfectly exemplified the dial-up tone, that’s the face she made. After she collected herself, I was released and headed back to class.

By this point, I was mostly just not doing the project because it was dumb. But them calling a family member to strong-arm me was crossing a line.

On top of that, they tried to strong-arm me using a parent with whom I was no-contact. I decided right then that, no matter what, I wasn’t caving in to their bull.

Though, in my anger was also confusion. Why the heck did these people care so much about one guy not doing an optional assignment? Also, I made myself very clear, so was that the end of it?

Spoiler: It wasn’t.

Still, they tried again.

A few more weeks later, I got pulled into the actual principal’s office. The principal, for reference, was one of those guys that tried to make a show of being overly friendly and goofy, but to the point where it came off as superficial. When I got to his office, he was his usual extroverted self, greeted me, and sat me down.

“So, I’ve heard about this whole senior project problem you’ve had going on. And I get it. Trust me, I really do – you’re new here, so our motto hasn’t had as much of an impression. So, after talking about it with the folks grading the projects, we think it’d be just fine if you had a modified project. Just do a project on one letter of IMPACT, and you’re golden.” He gave me a big warm smile.


“Sorry?” He asked, still smiling.

“I’m not doing it.”

His smile was slowly fading, “But you only have to do one letter. It’s really not that much.”

“Yeah, I got that. I’m still not going to do it.” I stated.

“But you won’t be able to walk on graduation day.”


“So what’s the issue, exactly?”

“You called my mom.”

His mouth was open like he was going to say something, but I guess nothing came to mind, as we sat in silence for a good twenty seconds – him trying to formulate an argument, and me making a Jim Halpert face.

I told him if that was everything he needed to talk about, I would be heading back to class.

He didn’t protest, so I just left.

Before finally giving up and letting him walk at graduation anyway.

It was after this meeting that I eventually got some context.

Apparently, California schools will shuffle principals around every few years for some reason that probably makes sense, but I don’t care enough to research. Our principal was going to be switching schools after the 2013 semester had ended, and one of his big plans was to leave that high school with 100% participation in the senior projects that would otherwise not affect any final grade…

He used the threat of preventing students from walking at graduation to bully everyone into doing the dumb project. …Almost everyone – I stuck to my guns and refused to do it. And sure enough, after the deadline had passed, they made a big deal about how happy they were that 99.6% of students completed their senior projects, even though they were hoping for 100%.

And the absolute dumbest part about this exercise in stupid? After everything was said and done, I was called in one last time to the VP’s office. She told me that despite my refusal to do the senior project, they were still going to let me walk, and gave me five tickets for friends and family.

I laughed, walked out without the tickets, and didn’t attend my own graduation.

Is there a moral to this story? Maybe Reddit can find one!

The bottom line is that high school just isn’t important to some people.

Source: Reddit/AITA

A lot of full-grown adults just don’t understand.

Source: Reddit/AITA

Small towns can make things even worse.

Source: Reddit/AITA

OP should know he’s definitely not alone.

Source: Reddit/AITA

There are all types of people and most don’t fit neatly into a box.

I wish adults would strop trying to force kids into them.