How many of you remember your high school graduation, let alone the speeches given by the principal, valedictorian, and any guest speakers if you high school had one? Go ahead, take some time and think about it… Okay, times up, odds are that unless you are one of those few who actually gave these speeches then you don’t remember either who the speakers were, what they said, and maybe you don’t even remember the date your graduation was held; and that’s okay. No one from your high school is going to come and revoke your diploma because of your not remembering, at least I hope not. However, a word of warning to all of those hard working high school students out there who will have earned the right to speak at their future commencement ceremonies as valedictorian, you might want to watch what you say, because it could very well cost you your diploma.
Welcome to Prague Oklahoma, a tiny little town in central Oklahoma, with a population a shade over 2,000 and whose theme for 2012 is “Moving Forward Together, Taking Nothing for Granted.” Having lived in small towns before there is a definite charm and friendliness that does kind of conjure a bit of Norman Rockwell like imagery; and I am sure Prague is no different. However this tiny little town has made the news, and it isn’t for any idyllic small town festival, it is for something a little less than idyllic. Prague Highs School has decided that it is going to withhold their 2012 valedictorian’s diploma.
Wow, what did this student do to warrant such a stern reaction? While I may not remember the details of my high school graduation, I do remember that high schoolers are prone to bouts of prankish and sophomoric behavior, which could lead to a denial of one’s diploma, so I guess this valedictorian must have gotten caught trying to paint the rival high school’s mascot, or some other thing, right? Well, no, it wasn’t anything like that at all.
Kaitlin Nootbaar spent her four years of high school studying hard and never earned any grade but an A, earning her a 4.0 GPA and the honor of being her alma mater’s 2012 valedictorian. Being valedictorian she was also granted the privilege to speak to her class at the commencement ceremony. That is where/when she also was denied her diploma, because of what she said.
Again, you might be thinking that this straight A student must have went of some sort of political, or religious diatribe to force the school to deny her the diploma she earned, and again you would be wrong. Her diploma is being denied because of one little word, and it isn’t one of the seven words you can’t say on television that George Carlin made (in)famous. Kaitlin said the word “hell.” Oops, I guess we now know where the city of Prague stands on its views of hell now, don’t we?
So, what is it exactly that Ms. Nootbaar said to deserve the denial of her earned diploma? Well, here it is, “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.” To be fair to the school, the copy of her speech that she gave to the school for approval she did have the word “heck” in place of the word “hell,” but Kaitlin says that when giving the speech “hell” just came out of her mouth; it wasn’t intentional. Upon saying what she said the audience is said to have laughed and gave her a warm applause when she finished speaking. None-the-less, later when she and her father went to the school to pick up her diploma that is when the school principal told her that she cannot have her diploma; unless she writes an apology – I guess for her outlandish behavior, and crude remarks. Kaitlin is refusing to write such an apology, believing that one is not warranted, and her father is standing by her decision.
So, what is a non-diploma having valedictorian student to do with themself? Well, for Kaitlin she will be attending college on an academic scholarship as a reward for her hard work, earning that 4.0 GPA at Prague High School.
You think you are killing me. I think you are committing suicide. (Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943)