Oklahoma high school valedictorian denied diploma for using ‘hell’ in speech

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PRAGUE, Okla. – An Oklahoma high school valedictorian who was denied her diploma because she used the world “hell” in her commencement speech doesn’t plan to apologize for her choice of words, her father says.

David Nootbaar said he is furious that Prague High School is withholding his daughter Kaitlin’s diploma because of her use of the word during the graduation speech in May. “She has worked so hard to stay at the top of her class and this is not right,” he said. “She earned that diploma. In four years she has never made a B. She got straight A’s and had a 4.0 the whole way through.”

School officials declined to comment. “This matter is confidential and we cannot publicly say anything about it,” Prague schools Superintendent Rick Martin said in a statement to KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City.

David Nootbaar said his daughter was inspired by the movie “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” when she wrote the speech. “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.

Written By: NBCNews.com
continue to source article at usnews.nbcnews.com

71 COMMENTS

  1. Hearing this phrases like “Paddle faster I hear banjos” come to mind.
    There is some pretty good research that shows that an authoritarian personality is linked to lower IQ scores. This seems to be a pretty good example. The young woman should be given her deploma go to college where she will excell and leave that school and its thick headed principal behind her.

  2. If they denied her a diploma for being inspired by Twilight I might be with them. Just kidding, this is insane, I can’t believe they will get away with it if she met all her requirements they can’t deny a diploma for some behavioral infraction, even if it was something serious but certainly not for this. 

  3. Just try to go to the Prague High School web site to leave a comment, too.  No can do.  When I clicked on the hyperlink in a Google search results page, I saw the high school’s web page flash on the screen for a millisecond before being routed to a generic Google search page.

    If you can’ take the heat….

    BTW, I decided to call, instead.

  4. if you allow students to go round saying “hell” like it’s just a (what’s the word i’m looking for..? oh yes…) word, before long it’ll no longer be any use for terrifying children.

    i can understand the oklahoma education authority’s concerns

  5. Quite a bit different from my school district.  We can’t legally deny any student their report card (graduation diploma is irrelevant for getting into college/university, and is just a piece of paper to hang on the wall), even if they haven’t returned textbooks and/or owe the school money.  We’ll make the threat that they won’t get it until those issues are settled, but if they call our bluff, the school has to hand it over.

  6. What? Who on earth thinks that “how the hell should I know” is even mildly risque? I had no idea anybody thought of it as anything other than run-of-the-mill everyday language. Do people really think THAT’s some kind of swearing? Really? Are there REALLY people who get upset about things like this? Is this not from The Onion or Daily Mash or something?

    Try as I might, I simply can’t believe this story is true.

    • In reply to #14 by Cartomancer:

      What? Who on earth thinks that “how the hell should I know” is even mildly risque? I had no idea anybody thought of it as anything other than run-of-the-mill everyday language. Do people really think THAT’s some kind of swearing? Really? Are there REALLY people who get upset about things like this?…Remember this stretch of waste-land is the heart of the ‘bible belt’. They don’t want to hear awful words like ‘HELL’

  7. I doubt the school can argue that she has to be held to a different standard than all the other students if she wants to get her diploma. None of them had to even give a speech. Any University that would say “Well everything looks good, if only they would hand over that diploma so you could graduate. They will take her on the spot. She should tell the school to go to hell in an open letter that uses the word hell as much as hellishly possible.

    Call it “The Hell You Won’t” campaign. Get us seculars on her side and the hell worshipers, too. They might have something to say about their hell worshiping beliefs being held up as immoral.

  8. Tis simple ignorance and arrogance; Oklahoma is the home of Senator James (God is still on his throne) Inhofe and also the home of Anal Robert’s University of Religious Witchcraft. So, what more needs saying!

  9. Ironic, the high school mascot is satan, yet she can’t reference his crib.

    I’m soooooooo glad she’s not going to write an apology. *now young lady, what you done is wrong.  Acquiesce, cowtow, admit your evil doing, and I’ll give you your diploma*  Go. To. H***.

  10. I didn’t go to mine either. I should have got a 1st and they gave me a 2.1. Bastards. Btw, have you noticed all the female news reporters are stunners? We have Paxo and Jon Snow. Know which I prefer.

  11. I fail to see how using the word “hell” can arouse any sort of indignation in people when it’s used ad nauseam by preachers telling us that’s where we’ll go if we don’t renounce our sin to Jebus (and send them lots of money of course).

    Now if she’d said “how the fuck do I know” I could count that as swearing, not that I’d mind at all but you surely have to be an insufferably pompous little cretin to deny someone their diploma for using a word you presumably hear in church every Sunday anyway.

  12. Looks like the real thing ;-). I put “hell” into the search field and got: “Search Results: Either no results were found or you need to be more descriptive in your search.”
    So I put in “bloody hell” and got nothing……..

  13. Reminds me of an old Star Trek episode when Kirk and Spock are stuck on in some past culture and Kirk teaches Spock to say “The Hell!” as an interjection, so as to fit in better. That situation did not work out so well, either.

  14. I’m trying to get into that principal’s head, and the only reasonable thing I can come up with is this:


    OK Kid, here you are, an obvious winner. You’re intelligent, hardworking, social- and civic-minded, and attractive to boot. You’re a winner, Kid.

    I need to inform you that there are assholes in this world who will hurt you out of spite, envy, jealousy or whatever.

    Consider this a cheap lesson.

  15. This is an attempt to maintain the status quo and use her as an example at her expense. His view is rooted in religious etiquette and simply old fashioned, not to mention illegal. It’s time for the principal to retire or be forced out.

  16. When people use bad magic words, bad things damn well happen.  The principal was right, she used the bad magic word “Hell” and all this worldwide bad publicity happen.  Maybe if he hangs a copy of the Ten Commandments it will give him magic protection.

  17. That’s Oklahoma for you, the state where I was born and grew up, so I know it’s a true story. But a little red devil on my shoulder tells me the dad, the principal and the daughter are in cahoots: next thing you know, a fund-raising site will be set up in the Internet to “help” the daughter with her college tuition… oh, wait, she’s on full scholarship.  

  18. Obviously you have missed the point about “Reason”. This an un”Reasonable” reaction to the word “Hell”. This site is about calling out un”Reasonablous” doctrine or behavour. If you were to “Reason” this out you would see the “Reason” behind why this is un”Reasonable”.
    Please read this sites website title “The Richard Dawkins Foundation For Reason and Science” Do you see the “reason part of this yet?
    If not you need glasses.

  19. Miss Nootbaar: move … away from a land where Gump’s are role models to a country that celebrates intelligence and achievement – you’ll find plenty of them in Europe Perhaps your ancestors came from Holland, you must be wondering why they ever left?

  20. Are these certificates from an independent examination board?

     If so I would suggest writing to them explaining that the school is improperly withholding the document, making a formal complaint, and requesting a replacement copy.

  21. Remember the scene in Dr. Strangelove when Mandrake needs a dime to call in the codes to recall the nuclear bombers.  He orders an American soldier to shoot a Coke machine to get one.  The soldier refuses. Mandrake persists. The soldier reluctantly agrees saying “You’ll have the Coca-Cola company to answer for this”.

    Superintendent Rick Martin with his complete lack of understanding of the relative importance of things reminds me of that soldier.

  22. This vaguely reminds me of a dust-up I had as a Junior High School student in Washington State in a town about 20 miles away from Seattle in the early 1980s.  This town was very conservative Christian.

    Before school began, sitting in my first period class, I was engaged in a debate with a fellow student and said, “what the hell does that have to do with anything” in response to a point raised by the other student.  Several other students who were religious objected and stated that “hell” was a swear word.  I disagreed.  Eventually the teacher got involved and sided with the students and told me to write “I will no swear in class” on the blackboard 5x before the class began.  I refused.

    When class began and I still had not written on the board, he made me stand outside the classroom (which was a portable classroom detached from the school) in the cold of winter (and I had put my jacket in my locker and wasn’t dressed for the elements).  He told me that I could come back in when I agreed to write on the board.  I crossed my arms and stood out there defiantly.

    Eventually, after maybe 20 or 30 minutes, he realized I wasn’t going to back down, let me back into the class and told me that he was sending me to the vice principal.  I went and was told that my punishment was detention.  I told the vice principal I wasn’t going to detention.  He told me that if I didn’t, I would be suspended.  I basically said, “we’ll see about that” and went home after school and let my parents know what was going on.  They intervened and met with the vice principal and principal of the school.  Were there any doubt that the reason for my punishment being religiously motivated, all doubt was removed at that meeting.  The principle, amazingly, admitted as much at the meeting and also admitted to censoring books for the school library based on their anti-Christian messages.

    That was when my mom stood up and said, “this meeting is over” stormed out with my dad and contacted the ACLU.  Long story made slightly shorter, the principal was fired, and I never served my detention.  I do recall when I was pulled out of class by the vice principal to be informed that the school had decided not to make me serve the detention (as if they were doing me a favor).

    My response was, “and?”

    He responded, “and what?”

    “Where’s my apology?”

    “Don’t push it.”

    “Oh, I would have just taken an apology from you right now, but now, I want one from you, and the teacher, I want it both in writing and verbally in front of the class.”

    He basically told me to go to hell (without using those words).

    Suffice it to say, a week or so later, I got my apologies.

  23. What would one expect from the State which bore TOBY KEITH, that literary giant who gave us ‘Beer For My Horses’ and ‘You’re Next, Iran’ ?  Toby is famous for wanting to get into fights with members of his audience who don’t show him his required “respect.”  Oklahoma is still one of the most backward states in the country, and ‘kissin’ cousin’ to other knuckle-dragging states such as TEXAS, LOUISIANA, ARKANSAS, MISSISSIPPI, ALABAMA, GEORGIA, MISSOURI, and TENNESSEE.  Isn’t it interesting that the states with the lowest academic achievement records are the ones which embrace this kind of stuffy, ‘Victorian-age’ pedantics (along with ignorant ‘Creationism’). 

  24. The girl was
    a good student and passed the exams, therefore the diploma belongs to her by
    its own right and the school hasn’t got the right to refuse delivery of the
    document because of an innocuous speech where she used a word that everybody
    says. The family must submit a complaint to the courts
    and claim damages.

  25. Those dumb-asses are still fighting over trying to teach creation in science class. No facts please, it just confuses us. Miss Nootbaar should make a break for the border as fast as she can, and never look back.

  26. When I was graduating from 8th grade my principal told me I couldn’t get my diploma without a haircut. I came in the next day ready for graduation with no haircut. The expression on his face was priceless. I knew he couldn’t keep me from graduating, and I also knew it was none of his business how long my hair was. I wasn’t interested in parading across the stage in the first place. This has nothing to do with the story I’m commenting on except maybe that it don’t take but around 12 to 15 brain cells to be a principal.

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