Here's an article that I have been recently following in The Tampa Tribune now that high school graduations for 2013 have come and gone: Principal cuts off Wharton salutatorian in middle of graduation speech. If you are an American that values the right of lawful free speech and expression, you need to keep reading this blog entry word for word.
After all, if you happen to be your senior class' valedictorian or salutatorian and you have to give a speech at graduation, you are asked by your school principal to write a speech and run it by the principal for approval. And this is what Wharton High salutatorian Harold Shaw Jr. did.
And when graduation day comes and you have to give that speech, it is normal to be nervous. After all, you only get one chance at high school including graduation.
So graduation day for Wharton High came, and Harold Shaw Jr. gave his speech, which was approved by Wharton High Principal Brad Woods in the days before graduation. Halfway through the graduation speech, according to The Tampa Tribune article, Principal Woods pulled the plug on what was supposed to be Harold Shaw Jr.'s speech to the Class of 2013.
What happened next will shock you, quoting from the Tribune article:
1. Principal Brad Woods stated that he respected the principles of free speech. What a lie Principal Woods made to all in attendance at the graduation ceremony.
2. Next, Principal Woods decides to make a criminal out of Harold Shaw, Jr. by having him and his parents escorted off the premises by two Hillsborough Sheriff's deputies working security detail at the ceremony.
3. Harold Shaw, Jr. was allowed to pick up his high school diploma - two days after the ceremony.
Now here's my take on how Harold Shaw Jr.'s were grossly violated by the actions of Wharton High Principal Brad Woods at the graduation ceremonies that took place at the Florida State Fairgrounds' Expo Hall:
After reading the article not only at The Tampa Tribune but also 10 News (WTSP-TV) and Bay News 9, I think it is very clear that Principal Woods violated Harold Shaw Jr.'s civil rights. That speech was already approved after so many revisions made well in advance.
By the way, Hillsborough Schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia defended the actions of Wharton High Principal Brad Woods at Wharton High's commencement ceremony, according to this 10 News (WTSP-TV) article. Nothing more than a rubber stamp seal of approval that Wharton High School - as well as the Hillsborough County School District - tramples on the principles of American patriotism, liberty and democracy.
Besides, what kind of school district is Hillsborough Superintendent MaryEllen Elia running? How about lax supervision of students, as what happened tragically with 11-year-old Jennifer Caballero when she wandered off the campus of Rodgers Middle School. How about treating students, especially high school students (and their parents too), more like criminals, using a Student Code of Conduct which parallels civil law such as what is found in Mexico.
On a side note, Mexican law is based on civil law. Easiest explanation: You are guilty of any offense until you prove your innocence. Same way with the Hillsborough County School District's Code of Student Conduct: You as a student are guilty of any offense in the code of student conduct until you can prove otherwise, and nine times out of ten any appeal of disciplinary action taken by the principal is denied. The burden of proof is on you, the student, not the administration.
Principal Woods, by his actions at Wharton High's commencement ceremony, seriously undermined the values of American liberty and democracy - of which his faculty teaches to students who take required civics and American National Government classes. Why have these classes in the very first place?
Perhaps Wharton High School Principal Brad Woods ought to consider organizing a study tour over the summer to a country where human rights and civil liberties such as freedom of speech and freedom of lawful expression are not respected and where abuse by law enforcement is routine, such as Singapore which is rated partly free by Freedom House for laws that restrict freedom of speech, or to the Eastern European dictatorship of Belarus (rated by Freedom House as Not Free) whose leader, Alexander Lukashenko, suppresses any and all dissent including restrictions on freedom of speech among other things.
After all, school principals who care to erode parental rights, trample the civil liberties of students, and exercise control over students beyond the school campus (with the exception of school sponsored events held off campus) and turn students and parents into criminals for no reason do not deserve to be in the business of educating students in the very first place. And on a side note, if school principals do want to trample on the principles of American patriotism as well as the principles of American liberty and democracy and the civil liberties of students - which is taught in classes such as civics and American National Government - take down the American flag that flies in front of your school and stop reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the school day.
Which ponders me to think: Is Wharton High School in Tampa still part of the United States? Judging from the actions of Principal Brad Woods at the commencement ceremony, I think Wharton High is slowly trying to secede from the United States.
And this is just my opinion.
Finally, I can't close out this blog entry with a positive remark for Harold Shaw, Jr.: Congratulations on a well deserved achievement, not only graduating from high school but graduating as the salutatorian of the Class of 2013! You worked so hard for not only that high school diploma but that standard of distinction; don't let anyone take that away from you!