Valedictorian denied diploma after "hell" quote in speech

A brilliant student, Kaitlin Nootbaar, was denied her High School diploma for using the word "hell" in her Valedictorian speech, according to Oklahoma City's KFOR. A school administrator at the High School in Prague, Okla., demanded a personal apology from her before handing it over, a condition she turned down—and which her family believes is illegal.


  1. Could be a breach of school conduct rules, I’ve always wondered why the actual document isn’t handed over at graduation, were too many people losing them at parties afterwards?

    1.  On the off chance that the question is serious, most schools send the actual document afterwards because too many graduates would otherwise get diplomas with other people’s names on them. All it takes is for one student to be out of place in line. True, people could read the name on the document and recover, but in the stress of handing out a few hundred of them, it’s hard to imagine mistakes not being made.

    2. Because– at least at my high school and law school– you d0n’t get your final grades until after graduation so they can’t actually give you your diploma when you walk. My college had “senior week” where all the professors scrambled like mad to get senior grades in while we did things like go on cruises and go to Six Flags. I got my diploma at graduation.

    3. At my high school, you got the empty diploma holder at the ceremony, and then you picked up your diploma after the ceremony in the library (which was the pre- and post- ceremony meet-up point, as part of the whole ceremony). This was so they didn’t have to worry about getting the right one for each person, while you still had an object to hold for the photo. They also didn’t have a list of names to read from, but rather each student was given an index card on which to write their name as they wanted it read. They would then carry this card during the ceremony and give it to the announcer at the side of the stage.

  2. “Kaitlin Nootbaar graduated from Prague High School in May and was named valedictorian.”

    “When tasked with writing the graduation speech, her dad says she got her inspiration from the movie “Eclipse: The Twilight Saga.”

    was named valedictorian

    Eclipse: The Twilight Saga.




    That said, this is a particularly petulent and childish response from the school over quite literally nothing and I hope they change their minds. Ridiculous.

    1. Maybe it’s all a big misunderstanding and they’re actually denying her graduation because of her use of Twilight as a reference.

      That’s a lot more understandable.

      1. In fact,  it’s because the principal heard that she prefers Robert Pattinson over Taylor Lautner and this principal hates those goddamn vampires.

    2. In all fairness, sometimes intelligent people like shitty books from time to time.  I myself enjoy a wide range of topics and genera – but I also love terrible romance novels and I forced my way though the entire “Left Behind” series…it became masochistically delightful after book3….

  3. We don’t want people to think we had a valedictorian who read Twilight, quick overreact and no one will notice!

  4. Oh no! Now she’ll apply for college and they’ll be like “Transcripts? No way, missy. Show me a rolled-up paper cylinder with a ribbon tied around it or GTFO of my office”

  5. Any bets that the transcript will be released, but will show prominently that she was denied the status of ‘graduate’ because of unspecified “indecent behaviour” at the ceremony?  Never underestimate the vindictiveness of a small-town principal: the principal could easily make the word into four scarlet letters.

  6. Hell’s a bad word?

    Man, preachers got some potty-mouths.

    Anyway, here’s hoping the principal gets fired and has his life ruined.

    1. Marge: So kids what did you learn about today?

      Bart: Hell.

      Homer: BART!

      Bart: What? That’s what we learned about. I sure as hell can’t say we learned about hell unless I can say hell, now can I?

      Homer: Kid’s got a point, Marge.

      Bart: Hell yes!

      Marge: Bart.

      Bart: [sings] Hell, hell, hell, hell, hell.

      Marge: Bart, you’re no longer in Sunday School. Don’t swear.

    2. As an expletive, possibly. As the opposite of heaven, no. As a village in Norway, no.

      This whole graduation thing makes little sense in the UK. External examining bodies award exams. Schools can in extreme cases prevent students from sitting exams for misconduct, they cannot withhold them.

      Heads have to justify their behaviour to the school governors. At my school the headmaster tried to expel the whole upper sixth form (150 pupils) for smoking drugs. He couldn’t tell which individuals were responsible. The governors made it quite clear that his position would be seriously compromised if he tried any such thing. This was just towards the end of the school year and would have prevented most of the sixth form sitting A-levels. There were no expulsions.

  7. The school district has a winking devil as its logo, too. Sounds like a weird local obsession.

      1. Why else would the be so pissed that she used the word “hell” in a negative way? Perhaps it IS “a winking devil” after all. The school worships THE devil …

      2. Is the demon toddler friends with Casper the dead toddler?  And if so, does that imply that Casper is in Hell?

    1. So does the school have a written policy against “profanity” that they used to withhold her diploma?   If so, they’re much more seriously in violation of it themselves, so they need to let go of the diploma.  If not, then their “make stuff up on the spot” policy really opens them up to trouble.

      Also, does their profanity policy only cover profane use of Christian religious terms (or Christian, Muslim, and maybe Jewish?)  Then they’ve got a more serious First Amendment problem than they realized, though it’s already a problem – the Abrahamic religions prohibit taking God’s name in vain (and by extension prohibit using other concepts from their religions profanely, and Christianity’s more explicit about that than Judaism is), while many other major religions don’t have equivalent prohibitions.  (She could have said “By Jove, how would I know!?” and Jove’s followers wouldn’t have been offended. The Fair Folk might have been grumpy if she’d dissed them, but it’s a personal affront rather than a moral one. And the Buddha wouldn’t have been offended by her lack of enlightenment, though he’s got a wide enough range of followers that some of them might.)

    1. You’re forgetting that to calculate the cultural era of a US town for each hundred miles from either LA or NYC you have to subtract 4 years from the current date, so Oklahoma is actually living through 1952 right now. Perhaps it is like Vernor Vinge’s “Zones of Thought” in his “Fire in the Deep” novel. The level of logical thought is limited by the geography…

      1. I’m sending this message to you from Ann Arbor via singing telegram, since we haven’t advanced to the era of widespread internet access. Telegram should be sung to the tune of “FORGET YOU” by your contemporary vocal stylist Ceelo Green.

        1.  Sorry I forgot to put an ironic smiley on my post. I guess I just figured it was obviously absurd.

  8. I’m glad I don’t get to hear about every stupid narrow-minded administrator’s control-trips and petty injustices, or I’d fucking drown in them. This barely deserves the emotional involvement worthy of a real free speech issue.

    Except if you have a threshold for responding to erosion of your freedoms it WILL be exploited, so you gotta push back at least a bit every time. Eternal vigilance and all that.The least-effort solution is obviously to apologise, get diploma, and *then* publicly ridicule the school.

  9. This is why our final exams don’t depend on a single individual or a single school for our final grades. People may hate our system (what kids don’t hate the system) but it is a hell of a lot fairer than this!

  10. The correctly phrased apology is:
    “I am so fucking sorry that I violated your bullshit rules.”

          1. Huh. Where I come from, “Smock Smock” means a “Yeah, OK – Very Funny” kind of laugh.

    1. I very nearly got into a 2:00 a.m. brawl with a bunch of Okies when I told them that Oklahoma is called “The Sooner State” because the sooner you got the fuck out of it, the better. They were unable to provide a reasoned alternate theory.

      1. “How’s about I punch yer lights out” frequently qualifies, especially after sufficient beers have been consumed by all parties.

        How’d you manage to avoid the brawl, anyway?

        1. I’m 6’5 and about 280. I stood up very straight and tall and made it pretty clear that I was a lot less drunk than the two of them, both runty, skeevy vermin, and the smarter of them (sic) was just wise enough to steer his buddy out of the Holiday Inn bar and out into the night.


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