By ERIN ROLL
A traditional hazing of sorts that comes along with the bus ride to Project Graduation is coming under scrutiny.
For 30 years, the Project Graduation buses carrying the graduates to a secret location for an all-night party form a parade through the streets of Montclair as friends and family members cheer the graduates on.
But over the years, the onlookers began showering the graduates with water, silly spray and eggs.
It’s the egg-throwing that set off an extensive debate among parents and students on social media. Some viewed the egg-throwing as a harmless prank and a sort of unofficial tradition, while others didn’t find it amusing.
Parents were concerned with egg-smeared windshields that can make it dangerous for the drivers to see, and others were concerned that their children had to walk around with egg on their clothes all night.
But, one parent brought up a more serious concern — food allergies. Her son’s exposure to a small amount of egg would cause serious medical problems, she said.
Police Lt. David O’Dowd confirmed that the police did have reports of eggs being thrown at the buses. There were no reported injuries. The egg-throwing has happened in prior years, as well, he said.
Parents reported a group of young adults holding egg cartons and waiting for the bus to pass gathered near Buzz Aldrin Middle School. Last year, parents alleged a similar egg-throwing incident happened as the buses passed Nishuane Park.
In years past, students from another school waited to spray water at the buses as soon as they crossed the town line from Montclair into Clifton. The first bus driver alerted the other bus drivers to close the windows, bus chaperone Renae Baker said.
“It didn’t dampen the fun,” Baker recalled. But she said this year’s hazing was more extreme.
“That’s a shame. I’d really hate to see this tradition ended. I wonder if a stronger presence at the areas the incidents happened would help?” Baker said.
When the hazing escalated to egg throwing in Montclair is mystery. Some say 10 years ago, but others say it’s only been the last few years that eggs were thrown.
“This annual special event is a source of community pride and celebration. Isolated incidents of misconduct along the parade route can happen. Montclair High Project Graduation is confident in the security provided,” the Project Graduation committee said in a statement.
After the parade through town, the buses took the students to an all-night party at Bowlmor White Plains in White Plains, NY, and brought them home in the pre-dawn hours.
Montclair High School has had a Project Graduation party every year since 1989. That year, 38 New Jersey towns received federal grants to allow high schools to hold graduation parties. Since that time Montclair Project Graduation has raised money through fundraising events throughout the year.
The intention of Project Graduation is to allow high school students to celebrate their graduation in a safe venue, free from access to alcohol or drugs.