Got to hand it to Zachary Golob-Drake. He's only in fifth grade, but already knows how to stir up controversy. Zachary wrote a speech for his class about how people use religion to justify mass murder (shocking, I know), and actually won a first place blue ribbon for his work. He was to deliver his speech in front of the entire school on Thursday, but on Wednesday, his assistant principal pulled him aside and told him his speech was "inappropriate." Yes, because it would have better for him to deliver a speech about Santa Claus or some other "safe" topic rather than have kids hear some tough stuff.
Zachary told Tampa, Florida's WFLA:
She started talking to me about how she thought my speech wasn't appropriate for 4th and 5th graders and she thought that probably I would have to rewrite my speech, take the religion out or not compete.
Zachary told her he would have to think about it at home (good answer, kid) and that's when the principal demanded his blue ribbon back.
By the time Zachary was picked up from school (potential future speech: How some assistant principal's use scare tactics to prevent free speech), he was crying and emotional. His mother then got involved, and spoke to school officials for four hours.
Eventually all decided that the speeches would be postponed until Monday and meanwhile permission slips would be sent out asking if parents were okay with all of the speeches, and the contents of those speeches would be listed. The school denies it was the religious aspect of Zachary's speech that bothered them, but the mass murder aspect. Oh. Okay.
Whether or not this was proper content for fourth and fifth graders (And why not? They probably all play violent videogames and watch violent movies.), the school handled it badly. Snatching Zachary's blue ribbon from him -- really? And needed an intervention before he got it back?
He earned that blue ribbon fair and square. His mother wonders why the speech wasn't a problem a week ago when he got his ribbon. And why it was unfairly wrested away from him. "It's like giving candy to a baby and taking away," she says.
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I understand why the school was leery -- all it takes is one parent blabbing to the press that kids were forced to hear about an "anti-religious tirade" and "mass murder" at school and the next thing you know someone is suing. God forbid kids hear anything complex or even slightly offensive -- and all it takes is one person to decide they are offended.
But perhaps a wiser recourse would have been to let Zachary keep his ribbon but then explain to him that due to the massively thin skins of some parents, he might not be able to speak at the bigger assembly.
It will be interesting to hear how many parents opt out of Zachary's speech.
Do you think the school handled this right?
Image via WFLA