A high school graduate from Prague, Oklahoma, who was named the school’s valedictorian, has been told she cannot receive her diploma because she used the word “hell” in her graduation speech.
In June we brought you the story of Kameron Slade, the 10-year-old fifth grader who was banned from speaking about same-sex marriage at his New York public school because his principal said the topic was “inappropriate.”
What’s wrong with these school administrators?
Katilin Nootbar was an exemplary student, with four years of straight A’s and a solid 4.0 GPA all the way through. That, of course, is why she was named valedictorian, and why she will be starting college in a few days on a full scholarship.
So what exactly is the problem here?
According to Kaitlin Nootbaar’s dad, David Nootbaar, the Prague High School alum’s speech was inspired by a scene from “Eclipse,” the third film in the Twilight Saga franchise.
Nootbaar said, “Her quote was, ‘When she first started school she wanted to be a nurse, then a veterinarian and now that she was getting closer to graduation, people would ask her, what do you want to do and she said how the hell do I know? I’ve changed my mind so many times.’”
He said in the written script she gave to the school she wrote “heck,” but in the moment she said “hell” instead.
Nootbaar said the audience laughed, she finished her speech to warm applause and didn’t know there was a problem.
In fact, the school gave no indication that it disapproved of the language until it was time to pick up the physical diploma.
“We went to the office and asked for the diploma and the principal said ‘Your diploma is right here but you’re not getting it. Close the door we have a problem,’” Nootbaar told the NBC affiliate.
The school would only agree to hand over the certificate if Kaitlin issued a formal apology for her actions, but she has so far refused to do so — a decision her family supports.
Of course she should not apologize. Kaitlin has nothing to apologize for. As a high school teacher for over 20 years, I have heard my fair share of sophomoric, unoriginal speeches at graduation ceremonies. Kaitlin deserves praise for coming up with an original idea.
The school would not discuss their decision to deny Kaitlin her diploma, calling the matter “confidential.”
Administrators at Prague High School cannot legally withhold Kaitlin’s diploma. As an over-achiever, she has exceeded expectations and more than met all the graduation requirements. Eventually, they will have to give her what is rightfully hers.
But with a dropout rate of 7,000 students a day in the U.S., or one student every 26 seconds, you would think that Kaitlin’s principal would be applauding her, not withholding her diploma.
Kaitlin sent KFOR-TV this statement Monday afternoon:
“First off, I would like to thank everyone who is backing me on this, especially my friends and family. And to those who don’t agree with me, that is fine also. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and is free to comment however they choose. It’s one of the great advantages of living in a free country. A country where we are free to speak. I would also like to note that I do not hate Prague. I have loved that town since I was a child. I don’t hate the school either, the teachers have always been great! I don’t feel that the whole town should suffer from the mistakes of few. Again, thanks:)”
If you agree that Prague High School administrators are behaving abominably, please sign our petition asking them to give Kaitlin Nootbar her diploma, and to change their polices on free speech.
Photo Credit: screenshot from KFOR