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Students who lost their diplomas over valedictorian speeches

Posted by on Jun. 9, 2013 at 9:54 AM
  • 6 Replies

#5 is especially interesting:

6 Students Who Lost Their Diplomas Over Controversial Graduation Speeches

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While some of these students were eventually awarded their diplomas, the content of their speeches was deemed too hot for commencement.


NBC NewsWire

This week the internet is abuzz with the story of a graduating Oklahoma student who was denied her high school diploma, thanks to a slip of the tongue during her valedictory address. It wasn't because she quoted Twilight, which is arguably a more grievous offense than the real problem. She used the word "hell." An approved draft of her speech read "How the heck do I know?" But caught up in the moment, Nootbaar delivered the line uncensored. The Prague High School mascot is the Red Devil, but H-E-double-hockey-sticks probably doesn't make its way into the cheerleaders' repertoire.

Nootbaar's diploma will be withheld until she submits a written apology for the slip, which she has so far refused to do. In the meantime, Nootbaar isn't concerned about it. "I know what I've achieved and the fact that I don't want to give an apology, maybe I'll never get my diploma and that's fine,' she told Matt Lauer on Wednesday.


In 2004, Tiffany Schley was valedictorian of the High School of Legal Studies. Her speech was submitted to the principal and rewritten prior to the ceremony, but Schley chose to give her original remarks, which admitted that students had had it kind of rough. There was a shortage of textbooks, too many uncooperative policymakers, overcrowded classrooms, and the school had hired four new principals in as many years. Before she could get to the part about how hard the students had worked to overcome the obstacles, her microphone was turned off and the ceremony went on.

When she arrived at the school the next day to pick up her diploma, she and her mother were escorted off grounds by security and told she wouldn't receive the certificate until she issued a public apology. Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke out on her behalf, and the chancellor overruled the school's decision. It took another two months -- and a community-organized meeting at a local church -- for Schley to actually receive her certificate.


Some people just can't take a joke.

The valedictorian of Eagleville High's class of 2005 wanted to liven up the ceremony with a funny speech, one that was both personal and amusing. He submitted his draft to school officials beforehand, who requested he remove two lines which they felt spoke poorly of the school's educational standards.

Stoklasa was given the option to remove the jokes or not speak; he chose not to give his address, but eventually his mother and the principal talked him into it. All heck broke loose, though, when it became evident Stoklasa did not intend to use the edited version. His microphone was cut off after he said, “You have given us the minimum required attention and education to master any station at any McDonald’s anywhere. For that we thank you." Attendees never heard the next line, which was, "Of course, I’m only kidding. Eagleville is a fine institute of higher learning, with superb faculty and staff,” according to the original draft. Stoklasa's diploma was denied, and he issued no apologies.


The 2006 graduating class of Lewis-Palmer High School had 15 valedictorians, who were each given a 30-second segment. Corder and another student were given the concluding messages. Drafts of each student's speech were approved by the principal beforehand. During the ceremony, however, Corder tacked on a few lines to hers:

“We are all capable of standing firm and expressing our own beliefs, which is why I need to tell you about someone who loves you more than you could ever imagine. He died for you on a cross over 2,000 years ago, yet was resurrected and is living today in heaven. His name is Jesus Christ. If you don’t already know him personally I encourage you to find out more about the sacrifice he made for you so that you now have the opportunity to live in eternity with him.”

Exiting the stage, she was informed that her diploma would be withheld until she apologized. Corder complied and then filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the school. It was later thrown out because her remarks were school-sponsored and fell under district policy. In 2009 the Supreme Court refused an appeal from Corder.


The co-valedictorians of Middletown High School South's 2012 graduating class gave a joint speech that referenced "Call Me Maybe" and underage drinking, mocked the high turnover of the school's staff, and called out individual students for laughable behavior. The remarks were rejected by school officials before the ceremony, but Dominach and Sebastiano gave them anyway. They were denied their diplomas until each student mentioned by name in the speech was contacted by school authorities to ascertain whether the boys violated the state Harassment, Intimidation & Bullying law. During this lengthy process, the students posted avideo of their speech in full on Facebook. Following a Board of Education meeting, the pair were awarded their diplomas.

August 23, 2012 - 9:54am

Read the full text here: 
--brought to you by mental_floss! 

by on Jun. 9, 2013 at 9:54 AM
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by Ruby Member on Jun. 9, 2013 at 9:55 AM

Sorry, I couldn't edit for some reason, but meant to say #4 was interesting, in light of recent topics. 

by Silver Member on Jun. 9, 2013 at 9:58 AM
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I would be furious if my child's diploma was held for this kind of crap. The administration officials feelings were hurt. Tough...ever heard of free speech?
by Gold Member on Jun. 9, 2013 at 10:01 AM
Break the rules, get punished.

Except for the first one, i agree with them losing their diplomas
by Silver Member on Jun. 9, 2013 at 10:09 AM
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I disagree with them losing their diploma's. Way to kill free speech. Maybe it's times schools and school districts took a good hard look at themselves. 

by on Jun. 9, 2013 at 10:10 AM
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Will not support a child, who has done nothing more than say some words in a speech that has only caused offense to some but was not threatening or bullying in any way, losing their diploma.

If they're up there on that stage, they're there because they have maintained an exceptionally high GPA and honors throughout their senior year and possibly before that.

My son's 2011 graduating class was threatened with no diploma by a power hungry principal who stated that if they threw their caps into the air upon completion of the ceremony--a graduating tradition--they would not receive their diplomas.

When it was pointed out to this woman how many times that SHE had been caught breaking rules at football games (parking her own chairs that she brought onto the bleacher stands and being in the way of everyone who tried to get around her) and other school events, she relented and backed down.

by Ruby Member on Jun. 9, 2013 at 10:29 AM

If they don't want these students to speak their mind, make a few jokes or are afraid they'll offend someone, perhaps the principles or school board members should write the speeches for them. That way the speeches could be as bland and boring as they apparently want them to be. What's the point of having a valedictorian write a speech if they are then going to be told they cannot deliver said speech or end up having the mic turned off in the middle of it. People give speeches all the time that some in the audience find offensive in whole or part so why are we telling these kids, who happen to be at the top of their class, that their speech has to be one that EVERYONE in the audience will agree with completely. Why are we teaching them to be free and critical thinkers and then telling them that their opinions, thoughts and even their sense of humor are inappropriate because someone might be offended. Either we want them to be free and critical thinkers or we want them to be people who gauge everything they think and therefore say by whether or not the listener just might be offended. Can't really have it both ways

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