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    Straight A student denied diploma

    Date: 08.29.12 | by Judge Tom.

    In May, 2012, Prague High School in Oklahoma conducted its graduation ceremonies for the senior class. The class valedictorian was Kaitlin Nootbaar, a straight A student headed to college on a full scholarship. As school policy required, Kaitlin turned in a copy of her graduation speech before the ceremony and it was approved. However, she went off script and changed the word “heck” to “hell.” The audience laughed and applauded when she finished.

    When Kaitlin went to pick up her diploma in August, 2012, the principal refused to give it to her until she wrote an apology for her speech. Kaitlin refused explaining she did nothing wrong. A Facebook page has been set up urging the administration to back off and give Kaitlin her diploma.

    Kaitlin wrote the following about the situation:

    Kaitlin Nootbaar

    “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:)”

    Her comment came in response to the many times she had been asked what she wanted to do once she finished high school. At first she wanted to be a nurse which changed to a veterinarian. She responded “How the hell do I know? I’ve changed my mind so many times.”

    In the meantime, Kaitlin moved into her dorm at Southwestern Oklahoma State University to begin her college career. The school admitted her based on her transcripts and GPA. Her major is marine biology but as Kaitlin says, “Who the hell knows” if that will change or not. After all, she’s just a freshman with the whole world ahead of her. Support for receiving her diploma without having to apologize has come from around the world. Kaitlin explains:

    “I don’t want to because I’m not sorry, so writing an apology letter, that’s just going to be a lie. Which if they’re saying that my cursing is sinning, that would be another sin, so don’t want to have two sins on my hands.”

    What do you think? Does her use of “hell” in her graduation address to classmates and their families justify holding her diploma until she apologizes to the school community?


    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    4 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • Jamie Walker
      Wed, 29 Aug 2012 at 08:14

      Well, since she cares so much about not lying (when it comes to apologies) and since she lied when she submitted her speech ahead of time, I think she should apologize. For lying.

    • KJohnson
      Fri, 31 Aug 2012 at 07:09

      Well, since the word she submitted means the exact same thing as the word she used, I wouldn’t consider that to be a lie. The context was the same. I don’t see how the word “hell” can be considered offensive when we hear it in church weekly.

    • George Hilbert
      Wed, 26 Sep 2012 at 07:34

      School officials have a hard time keeping some semblance of order in the schools these days. If not suppressed, student speakers (if that is the proper descriptive word) would drag a bottle of liquor up to the podium in order to outdo the previous record for “cool move.”

      On the other hand, one word changed seems like something that could be overlooked.

      I’m glad that I’m not responsible to decide.

      Perhaps in the future school officials could explain the rules to potential student speakers and why they are the way they are, and cite some bad examples of what has happened at their school and other schools in the past. Perhaps they could get the students on their side by some intelligent proactive measures. They are supposed to be at least more experienced than the students, aren’t they?
      Thanks, George, for your thoughts on this case.

    • Samuel
      Mon, 11 Feb 2013 at 06:34

      KJohnson is right,but, she went off script,if it was some minor change like saying the speech in a different order or something like that,the School would probably let that slide,but H— is a curse word because it should not be taken lightly.This is slightly off topic but,THE BIBLE says that GOD doesn’t view any sin differently from another,HE says that any sin is enough to guarantee that you won’t go to HEAVEN unless you accept CHRIST as your personal SAVIOR.What I mean by this is that all curse words should be viewed as vulgar.

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