School tells valedictorian speech too political

The morning of his high school graduation, Christian Bales found out he would no longer be allowed to deliver his valedictorian speech at the ceremony, so he gave it outside with a bullhorn instead.

Posted: May 31, 2018 1:04 AM
Updated: May 31, 2018 1:17 AM

The morning of her son's high school graduation, Gillian Marksberry received an unexpected phone call from his school: He would no longer be allowed to deliver his valedictorian speech at the ceremony.

The principal of Holy Cross High School in Covington, Kentucky, told Marksberry on Friday that her son, Christian Bales, and salutatorian Katherine Frantz had failed to turn in their speeches in time for review.

But Bales and Frantz told CNN they turned their speeches in by the date their teachers requested, and the speeches had already been read and approved by school faculty earlier in the week. Neither student was informed of a deadline for diocese review, they said.

"We decided to meet at the school and ask for a face-to-face meeting with the principal and superintendent if possible," Marksberry explained. "During that meeting, (the reason) changed."

Looking for answers

As the two families met separately with Principal Mike Holtz, he informed them that because Holy Cross is a Catholic school, the Diocese of Covington has final say over graduation speeches -- and they were rejecting Bales' and Frantz's due to their content.

"School officials and representatives of the Diocese of Covington reserve the right to review and approve all student speeches to be presented in public at high school graduations," the Diocese Director of Communications, Tim Fitzgerald, said in a statement to CNN affiliate WLWT.

"All speeches must be submitted in a timely manner. The student speeches for the Holy Cross High School graduation were not submitted for review before the deadline. When the proposed speeches were received, they were found to contain elements that were political and inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church."

Neither Holy Cross High School nor the Diocese of Covington responded to CNN's multiple requests for comment.

The reasoning given for the decision shocked the two students.

Frantz told CNN that her speech was called "too personal" for naming specific people in their graduating class. Bales' speech centered on the power of youth activism and highlighted the efforts of Parkland survivors as well as anti-abortion advocates at his school.

"I understand they said it was political, but not political to the point where it was advocating for one side of the spectrum," he told CNN.

The 18-year-old, who has been in Catholic school his whole life, also felt confused as to how his speech negated the teachings of the church.

"I talked about how faith can be a powerful and leading factor in our fight for social justice," he said.

Finding an alternative

For Marksberry, the decision to exclude her son from speaking at the ceremony stirred an uncomfortable feeling. It was the second time that week the principal expressed concern about Bales and graduation.

On Monday, his mother said the principal called to let her know he had consulted with the diocese about how Bales should dress for the ceremony.

Bales is openly gay and presents as gender nonconforming. Marksberry said the principal wanted to make sure he knew to follow the dress code for boys -- slacks, dress shoes and a dress shirt; no jewelry or makeup.

Marksberry assured them Bales would follow the rules and thought nothing of it. But the rejection of Bales' speech led her to believe the two calls were related, and she did not want these concerns to prevent her son or Frantz from being recognized for their academic achievements.

After their respective meetings with the principal, both families brainstormed ways to make sure the two students could still deliver the speeches they had worked so hard on.

It was then that they came up with the final solution: The grads would deliver them outside, after graduation, through a megaphone.

"We are the young people," Bales can be heard saying in the video of his speech, "and we will continue to win."

'There will be more students like me'

He concluded to cheers and applause from his teachers and classmates. About 80 to 100 people attended the speech, Marksberry said.

Frantz told CNN their class has about 84 students.

Despite not being able to speak as planned, Bales says he does not hold any ill will towards Holy Cross or the diocese. Instead, he hopes his situation will serve as an example for the school moving forward.

"There will be more students like me," he said. "There will be more gender nonconforming students, queer students, trans students. That's not going to stop. I hope we can all utilize this as a learning experience to create a more harmonious experience for students going through the diocese in the school."

Marksberry agrees with her son. Overall, she says she's just proud to know he still found a way to be heard.

"The irony of it all is the diocese made this decision with the intention of taking away their voice, and as a result, it has made his voice that much louder," she said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 445047

Reported Deaths: 5955
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin924911470
Ramsey39703735
Dakota32788331
Anoka30811360
Washington20004225
Stearns17775185
St. Louis13546240
Scott1189996
Wright11548102
Olmsted1035775
Sherburne815765
Carver691436
Clay648478
Rice600166
Kandiyohi552871
Blue Earth538033
Crow Wing479673
Otter Tail453464
Chisago449732
Benton416785
Winona386246
Douglas372466
Nobles366746
Mower362328
Goodhue343657
Polk327756
McLeod323144
Morrison310043
Beltrami308746
Lyon299835
Itasca282643
Becker281738
Isanti281141
Carlton278143
Steele27119
Pine265113
Freeborn241320
Todd230929
Nicollet223336
Brown213734
Mille Lacs212845
Le Sueur208515
Cass206123
Meeker198533
Waseca188816
Martin169126
Wabasha16883
Roseau165316
Hubbard148338
Redwood139227
Renville136539
Houston135313
Dodge13304
Chippewa130832
Cottonwood126518
Fillmore12215
Wadena119416
Rock109512
Sibley10797
Aitkin107133
Watonwan10618
Faribault104615
Pennington97715
Kanabec97218
Pipestone93823
Yellow Medicine93314
Murray8655
Jackson85010
Swift83018
Pope7355
Marshall70115
Stevens6978
Clearwater68514
Lac qui Parle65616
Lake62915
Wilkin6229
Koochiching59010
Lincoln4821
Big Stone4543
Unassigned43468
Grant4257
Norman4228
Mahnomen4087
Kittson37019
Red Lake3164
Traverse2473
Lake of the Woods1801
Cook1130

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 303065

Reported Deaths: 4267
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk45335447
Linn17673274
Scott15356163
Black Hawk13648236
Woodbury12945175
Johnson1202149
Dubuque11300149
Pottawattamie8934112
Dallas881171
Story863434
Webster467471
Cerro Gordo462968
Sioux453356
Clinton448361
Warren437538
Marshall425561
Buena Vista391529
Muscatine386177
Des Moines380641
Plymouth348868
Wapello340898
Jasper319658
Lee313530
Marion301752
Jones269649
Henry263230
Carroll253034
Bremer242048
Crawford228122
Boone216217
Washington214231
Benton208544
Jackson190831
Mahaska190736
Tama185657
Dickinson184226
Delaware172236
Kossuth170543
Clay166019
Wright162724
Fayette159522
Buchanan158023
Hamilton157829
Winneshiek154819
Harrison154462
Hardin153929
Cedar151419
Clayton150748
Butler146424
Page143715
Cherokee138127
Floyd137936
Mills136016
Lyon133632
Poweshiek132324
Hancock128824
Allamakee126827
Iowa122822
Calhoun12209
Grundy120026
Jefferson119524
Madison11869
Winnebago118229
Mitchell115634
Louisa114130
Cass112541
Chickasaw110512
Emmet110231
Sac110215
Appanoose109638
Union108122
Humboldt104219
Guthrie102224
Shelby101326
Franklin101218
Unassigned9210
Palo Alto9019
Keokuk84325
Montgomery84022
Howard82519
Monroe80518
Clarke7817
Pocahontas77211
Ida73830
Greene6887
Davis68721
Adair68620
Lucas6468
Osceola6349
Monona63316
Worth5983
Taylor5919
Fremont5036
Van Buren49412
Decatur4784
Ringgold4269
Wayne41421
Audubon4108
Adams2953
Rochester/St. Mary'S
Cloudy
24° wxIcon
Hi: 25° Lo: 20°
Feels Like: 16°
Mason City
Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 27° Lo: 17°
Feels Like: 16°
Albert Lea
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 25° Lo: 16°
Feels Like: 16°
Austin
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 25° Lo: 17°
Feels Like: 15°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
23° wxIcon
Hi: 24° Lo: 18°
Feels Like: 16°
A big temperature swing is on the way
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Saturday's local highlights and scores

Image

John Marshall ready for 2021

Image

Is the City of Rochester paying men and women equally?

Image

LWVMN asks for "truth and consequences" for state lawmakers

Image

Sports Overtime Part 2

Image

Sports Overtime Part 1

Image

Plans for polar plunge

Image

Equal work and equal pay.

Image

Aaron's Friday Night Forecast

Image

Mega Millions jackpot soars to $750 million

Community Events