Michael A. Bongiorni, valedictorian, senior class president and an "A" student all the way through Clinton Christian High School in Waldorf, Md., is scheduled to participate in graduation with his class this year only as the result of a court order issued yesterday.
He was expelled from the school Wednesday, according to his father and his lawyer, after he was accused of drinking beer and dancing. Drinking, dancing, kissing and smoking are prohibited among students at Clinton where they are "trying to retain some of the old American values," according to its pastor.
According to the complaint filed by the Bongiorni family, the young man did not violate the rules because he was not on school grounds when the incident took place.
According to the pastor, the Rev. John C. Macon, that does not matter. The rules apply anywhere, he said. "It would be an affront to our religious convictions" to allow a boy "who had been drinking and dancing" to participate, although he would receive his diploma.
So strongly does Macon feel about it that he said last night he was considering canceling the graduation ceremony to prevent Bongiorni's participation. The court order issued yesterday is "a violation of my religious rights," he said in an interview."
Michael was confronted with the drinking-dancing allegation on Monday in school, accroding to the suit that led to the court order yesterday.
School principal Gary Beard then told Bongiorni's parents that if he was permitted to paddle Michael seven times, it would be punishment enough.
The family agreed to this. They had invited numerous friends and relatives to graduation to bear Michael speak. Their son, who had been recommended for the U.S. Naval Academy, would go on to attend the University of Maryland.
But two days after the paddling agreement, according to the suit, the young man was expelled from school by the Rev. John C. Macon, the pastor.
"When this happened," said the father, "we were in a state of shock. We had to take some action."
The pastor said this was the second incident in which Bongiorni had been drinking. "The boy once before came to us and admitted he was drinking and promised never to do it again. We let him stay in school," he said.
After this alleged second incident, Macon said, they told him "we would give him his diploma, but we felt he lost his rights to march down the aisle." The paddling arrangement was made "without my knowledge," he said.
The preliminary injunction, signed yesterday afternoon by Prince George's County Circuit Judge James H. Taylor stipulates that the school may not conduct any graduation exercises without the participation of Michael A. Bongiorni.
It does not say anything however about the valedictory speech.
Mr. Bongiorni described his son as "relieved and joyful. We're all exhausted though," he added. "It's been a very long day."
The high school, which is part of a school of about 900 students from grades I through 12 has a dement system based on a list of 32 rules.
Penalties range from one demerit for infractions like lateness to class or chapel to 50 demerits or expulsion for smoking, dancing, kissing or driving recklessly, to automatic expulsion for drinking or using drugs.
Bongiorni has two younger brothers who also attend the school, one in 11th grade, the other in eighth grade. Mr. Bongiorni said last night he did not know if he would transfer his two other sons to another school next year.
"We've always been pleased with the kind of eudcation the boys have gotten there," he said. "But now I really don't know. I'll have to cross that bridge when I come to it."
Graduation is scheduled for 8 p.m. this evening at the Bible Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro.