NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s been exactly one week since administrators with the Joshua Independent School District silenced the graduation speech of the class valedictorian, because he made religious references. Now the high schooler has retained the services of a non-profit legal group to prevent what they say is damage to his reputation and possible retaliation by the school district.
As student Remington Reimer gave his speech at Joshua High School Owl Stadium on June 6, 2013, he thanked his parents, teachers and classmates. “Most people have never ever heard me speak much less see me smile,” he said. He then talked about his faith saying, “Most important I want to thank God for giving us the only son who went through excruciating death on a cross…” Then, as Reimer spoke about his constitutional rights to include any topics he chose in his speech, his microphone was turned off.
Officials with the Liberty Institute legal group say the actions of Joshua ISD leaders, not only requiring that all speeches be approved by school officials but also turning off Reimer’s mic, are against Texas state law, federal law, Joshua ISD policy and illegally censored the teenager.
According to the Liberty Institute, state law requires the school district to “distance itself from the valedictorian’s speech, including not editing or drafting the speech, and printing a disclaimer in the graduation program that must read in part that ‘the content of each student speaker’s message is the private expression of the individual student and does not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position or expression of the District.’”
Reimer and his lawyers say that not only did the district violate its own policies, but that after the ceremony, Joshua High School Principal Mick Cochran threatened to send a letter to the U.S. Naval Academy, the federal service institution to which Reimer had received an appointment.
After the graduation the Joshua ISD released the following statement:
The District has reviewed the rules and policy regarding graduation speech, and it has been determined that policy was followed at the Joshua High School 2013 Graduation Ceremony. The valedictorian, salutatorian, and class historian speeches were reviewed in advance by the campus staff, prior to the graduation ceremony. Student speakers were told that if their speeches deviated from the prior-reviewed material, the microphone would be turned off, regardless of content. When one student’s speech deviated from the prior-reviewed speech, the microphone was turned off, pursuant to District policy and procedure.
Joshua ISD Superintendent
There has been no comment from the district since the announcement of legal action on Thursday.
- Read a copy of the Liberty Institute letter sent to Joshua ISD School Board Members and Superintendent Fran Marek
Liberty Institute attorneys say they would like to meet with Joshua ISD administrators “to resolve the issues” surrounding the events at the graduation. Reimer and his lawyers want a public statement from the district exonerating the high school senior of any wrongdoing. They also want the district to state for the record that they will follow Texas state law and school board policy in the future.
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