Joshua ISD Cut its Valedictorian's Mic Last Night, But Maybe Not for Talking About God

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Remington Reimer's classmates at Joshua High School called him "Spock" -- less, it seems, due to any lack of human emotion than because he's whip-smart. The Cleburne Times-Review referred to him recently as the "most gifted, academically excellent student that Joshua High School has ever produced," which would explain how he became the valedictorian of his senior class.

Reimers will be shipping off shortly to the U.S. Naval Academy, but before that, he had a valedictory speech to deliver. He did that last night to a crowd gathered at Joshua High School's Owl Stadium. He started by thanking his parents and teachers and told a story about a runner who finished a race with a broken leg. He thanked God for "sending His only son to die for me and the rest of the world," according to the Burleson Star.

And then, this:

Reimer continued with his speech. This, according to the Burleson paper, is what he said:

We are all fortunate to live in a country where we can express our beliefs, where our mics won't be turned off, as I have been threatened to be if I veer away from the school-censored speech I have just finished. Just as Jesus spoke out against the authority of the Pharisees and Sadducees, who tried to silence him, I will not have my freedom of speech taken away from me. And I urge you all to do the same. Do not let anyone take away your religious or Constitutional rights from you.

The crowd, or at least those in the front row who could hear the speech, greeted this conclusion with a roar of applause. Meanwhile, this being Texas, where the attorney general goes to the mat for scripture-quoting cheerleaders, and social media being social media, the news caught fire.

It's been greeted by a predictable chorus of outrage at political correctness gone overboard. But the narrative, as it usually is in these cases, is more nuanced than the one that gets shared on Facebook. One student on Twitter had a different interpretation of what happened: "Actually they cut him off because he was about to go off on a rant about how the teachers and school board are a bunch of liars," she wrote.

We don't know if that's the case either, but it seems more likely than a small-town Texas school district would risking the wrath of Greg Abbott by silencing a Bible-quoting teenager. Then there's the fact that Reimer had already referenced God in his speech without being cut off. No video of Reimer's speech has surfaced on YouTube yet, but there is a clip of another student delivering a prayer, complete with scriptural reference and a shoutout to Jesus, totally unimpeded by school bureaucrats.

In other words, God doesn't seem to be the issue.

When we called this morning, Joshua ISD Superintendent Fran Marek would say nothing other than that the district's decision to cut Reimer's mic was in keeping with the district's policy on student expression, which can be found here. It's a detailed document, but it addresses religion in the first paragraph, stipulating that "a student's voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint" is treated the same as a "voluntary expression of a secular or other viewpoint."

The district clarified its stance this afternoon in a statement on its website and Facebook page.

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

That's unlikely to satisfy those who are already riled, but it did yield some sympathy from the district's fans on Facebook. Beyond that, the best for the district to do is hope people forget.

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79 comments
paulpsycho78
paulpsycho78

nice to see a self righteous bible thumper get screwed for once thanks eric for the story

bmarvel
bmarvel

Hulk -- " those that are accorded that right by the government."

How benevolent of Our Government to accord us this right. Those of us who are fully developed as humans and can be trusted to use that right in a way the officials approve have always shown our wisdom by speaking only what is appropriate and acceptable. 

For the rest there is the bullhorn of the internet.

And so I am using the bullhorn of the internet to remind you that your argument has been used before, not just to silence high school graduates, but to silence all sorts of people that we don't want to listen to. But the right to listen or not is not accorded to us by Our Government, thank God. It belongs to any human being who can freely make a choice. And so, as you would choose not to listen to what an 18-year-old valedictorian might have to say, I now choose not to listen to you.     

PerryMoore
PerryMoore

The fact that a school district feels forced to censor the graduation speech of its high school valedictorian condemns that district with a gravitas that the words of an 18 year old never could.

bmarvel
bmarvel

Yeah. We really gotta get these kids in  line. Especially the smart ones, the readers and thinkers. Gawd only knows what trouble they're going to be few years down the line. Now is the time to crack down, get 'em standing up straight, cut their hair, put 'em in white shirts and ties, disabuse them of the idea that they can say something just because they think it's true. We'll decide what's true and what's sayable, thank you very much, Mr. Academically Gifted Student Valedictorian. 

halldecker
halldecker

I'm about to spend $3 to $5 MILLION to educate this kid at West Point when he's already confirmed he won't follow the Rules.

mewkins
mewkins

Notwithstanding that the JISD position may have been offensive to some, it sounds like the kid has issues with authority. I'm sure he'll have tons of fun at the Naval Academy. Highly illogical.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

I love it when 18 year olds regale me with their broad perspectives on spirituality.

russell.allison1
russell.allison1

Not that I have anything against religious expression, but does anybody really want to sit through an over-long high school graduation?  Were I emperor of the world, one of the mandates would be that all graduation speakers be limited to no more than 2 minutes per speaker, including their walk to the lecturn. 

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

A country boy cannot be allowed to pull a Norman Rockwell, even outside the urban anthills.  Why, somebody four counties over, maybe in New York, might hear of it and become offended.  Then we are  all branded with the very invective The Enlightened seek to admonish.

Civility now demands that we accommodate those who see a Norman Rockwell but hear a Lew Rockwell.  

The very essence of PC, and the antithesis of "live and let live".

mdgwin71
mdgwin71

JHS Principal Mick Cochran and his staff ought to be fired for silencing a young man who hos volunteered to fight for the very freedom that was taken from him. Shame on those administrators. I am so glad my children aren't "led" by them.

Threeboys
Threeboys

Yep, a boy who wants to speak about a higher authoriity and how it may have positively affected his life should be shut down

Now, if he had spoken about the upside of teenage pregnancy, single parent homes, legalization of marijuana and its positive effects on the economy, gay marriage, the rich 'paying their fair share', usage of liquid smoke in barbecue sauce, gas versus charcoal, I'm sure he would have been able to talk all day.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

According to the bible (Mark 5-6), the proper way to pray is to go into your room, shut the door, and speak quietly.

Like most evangelical Republicans, this kid was not seeking glory for Jesus; he was seeking it for himself.

The word for that kind of behavior is "hubris" and according to the bible, it's one of the 7 deadly sins for which even God cannot forgive:

Americano
Americano

Everyone on the left loves watching Christians get shut down, until their ox is gored.  Let him talk about how Gay he is, and how much he loves it, and if he's not allowed to talk all night, it's a crime!  Freedom means allowing those you disagree with to share their beliefs.  He wasn't representing anyone but himself, and if you didn't like it, leave. 

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Tolerance or intolerance?

Whose intolerant?

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@bmarvel

The moment I wrote that, I knew you'd seize on that phrase and ignore the content of my post.

Anyway, I suppose we'll have to dispense with that issue first, so: I didn't say that the right to free speech was "granted" by the government, I merely pointed out that Mr. Spock doesn't have that particular right in this situation, as the admin is perfectly within its rights, and I would say has the duty to, preview Spock's speech.

So, then, could you engage on the matter at hand? Does the school have the right and duty to preview Spock's speech?


TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@bmarvel 

So, shall we assume that you are of the opinion that their speeches ought not be pre-screened, then?

MaxNoDifference
MaxNoDifference

@halldecker I believe you're thinking about Annapolis, MD (US Naval Academy), instead of west Point, NY (US Military Academy).

russell.allison1
russell.allison1

@TheCredibleHulk Well said.  Has there ever been a valedictorian that humbly approached the microphone and began his speech with, "I'm an 18 year old kid...I don't know jackshit of the world yet."  I'd sit through that speech and might not even fidget after 3 minutes.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@holmantx We already tried that "live and let live" thing with religious and anti-government extremists.  They rewarded our generosity by flying airplanes into skyscrapers and federal buildings.

leftocenter
leftocenter

As a single mom, I'd like to tell you to go F&*% yourself!

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@Threeboys 

That's very christian, but it's not very true.

In truth, he was going AGAINST higher authority.

kduble
kduble

@bvckvs  I'm with you till the final paragraph. The notion of 7 deadly sins is a Medieval concept. The Bible makes no explicit reference to this, although all 7 are things the Bible condemns.

Daniel
Daniel

@Americano The only problem with your argument is, most of the liberals on this thread have no problem with the kid exercising free speech. I sometimes can't help but wonder if shit like this is a stunt, conceived to provide fodder for the outraged Limbaughs and Town Hall columnists of the world. It 's a stretch, I know. I just said I can't help but wonder.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@holmantx 

Since 9/11, Americans have become far less tolerant of militant religious extremists.

Besides, according to the bible, even God does not tolerate this kind of arrogance.
Indeed, in to the bible, Xians are repeatedly commanded to submit themselves to authority.

He wasn't espousing Xian values - he was just throwing a Republican tantrum.

AggregatView
AggregatView

Despite your writings to the contrary, the principle has exposed his real agenda by now threatening this student with ruining his career at the Naval Academy.  How are you going to pretty up this pig now, spin doctor?

bmarvel
bmarvel

@TheCredibleHulk On the contrary, Hulk. i think their speeches should be in fact be written by the screening  authorities. This would allow the valedictorian to more perfectly express the correct sentiments and eliminate the need for middle-men -- censors -- between the what the school wants its graduates to say and what they actually say. We might even take a step further and have the authorities deliver the speeches they have written. Who wants to sit around a stuffy auditorium or  cramped stadium bleachers just to hear some "honors student" tell us what he's learned in four years of public education? We don't pay the schools for that.    

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@bvckvs @holmantx 

If I were you I'd just stick to the racism schtick.

That one illustrates why you shouldn't ad lib (ha!).

gmit
gmit

@leftocenter Maybe you should have "f&*%ED" yourself 

then you might not be so easily offended 

.......and broke

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@kduble @bvckvs The whole dang religion is a medieval concept.  And while it's true that SOME sect's bibles don't reference it, other sect's bibles do.

Americano
Americano

@Daniel

Wonder all you like.  I wonder if many stunts pulled by the left aren't contrived for the same reason.  Unless they admit it, all you can do is wonder.  That and $4.50 will get you a coffee at Starbucks.

kduble
kduble

@bvckvs @holmantx  Also, Jesus taught his followers not to pray out loud in public. The pious follower was directed to pray privately so only God could hear.

AggregatView
AggregatView

@TheCredibleHulk @AggregatView 

That's not what I said and you know that.  I've never seen someone bail on their original example so quickly but keep the same conclusion like the case they used to support it hasn't completely vanished.  You're going to have to come up with another example without the Dean Wormer contamination (or as you so graciously put it, the "asshole" factor).

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@AggregatView 

Just because one particular principle might be an asshole, now we should not pre-screen student speeches at school ceremonies and events?

Better yet, let's just scrap teachers and administrators altogether. Our young Einsteins certainly don't need any help of guidance from all of those out-of-touch grown-ups, anyhow.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@ChangingF8 Anybody who spends any time reading the comments on this blog is in no position to criticise anything an 18-year old valedictorian has to say.

ChangingF8
ChangingF8

@TheCredibleHulk @bmarvel Did you see anything in his intended words that just cried out as irresponsible teen rambling to you? Did he drop drug references? Did he disparage anyone? Did he ruffle your feathers because it was about God? What exactly was wrong with what he wanted to say that you think the District is in the right to censor it? He could get up there and spout out only the approved drivel that the District approved but then again why even have him speak at all in that case?

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@bmarvel @TheCredibleHulk 

In light of the fact that high school seniors aren't quite fully developed humans, yet, and occasionally tend to exhibit poor impulse control in general, I think that administrative oversight of the speeches delivered by them at official functions is entirely appropriate. Save your "Freedom of Speech" sermon for those that are accorded that right by the government. It wasn't intended to protect the freedoms of high school students at school sanctioned functions and ceremonies.

Certainly Mr. Spock, being the bright young thing that he obviously is, could still deliver a moving address to the assembly within the confines of what school officials think is acceptable. And it is entirely within the purview of the administration to make sure what is said at any school function is appropriate and acceptable.

As 18 year-olds, these kids have the bullhorn of the internet to blast their hard-won insight to the rest of the world, should they so desire. Nobody is curtailing their rights, here, in any fashion.

And, no, I don't want to hear boring speeches written by administrators, either, but this isn't some zero-sum situation where only one or the other can happen.

Maybe when Jeff Bliss becomes President, Spock can be his Secretary of Education, and then I'll listen to what he has to say.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@TheCredibleHulk Ask yourself, Hulk, which would you rather listen to: The "official" line from a bunch of school authorities or the thoughts of a very bright high school graduate?  

"Neither"does not count.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@bmarvel 

I'll take that as a "no", then.

I was looking for a little elaboration, but, that's OK. In my own opinion, I still think that an 18 year old, regardless of how smart, probably should have his valedictory speech pre-screened by school officials.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@TheCredibleHulk And your answer stands. If you have to explain sarcasm, it isn't sarcasm.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@bvckvs and the connectiom with the valedictorian in Joshua is....??

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@RTGolden1 @bmarvel @bvckvs 

I can see where that would be the perspective of an extremist.  Talk about going to school and following the rules and y'all are all like "Civil liberties! Civil liberties" like you have some constitutional right to be stupid.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@bmarvel @bvckvs 

Ingorning 9/11 for a moment - a Tea Party Republican in Austin suicide bombed his IRS-repossessed plane into the IRS office.

Are you honestly not aware that religious and anti-government extremists have been blowing stuff up?  Is that really how stupid Republicans want us to believe they are - that you freaks have already forgotten 9/11 and that whole mess?  Sheesh.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@RTGolden1 Comes down to it, Golden. there's really no useful distinction that can be made between the far right and the far left.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@bmarvel @bvckvs Looks like he went so far around to the left, he's back on the far right again....

leftocenter
leftocenter

Yeah, I immediately regretted that post -- I'm not usually easily offended.  I'm FAR from broke, though, if you mean financially.  Spiritually...hmm...working on that.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@kduble @bvckvs 

The problem here is in the definitions of words like "Christian" and "bible", especially as it varies among the thousands upon thousands of various sects.

kduble
kduble

@bvckvs@kduble I've read the Bible. There's no mention of 7 Deadly Sins in the Bible. You must be talking about liner notes.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@kdubleHe also told them to go out and preach the Good News.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@kduble @bvckvs @holmantx 
Well, the kid wasn't praying at all.  Prayer is a conversation with the magic sky pixie.
He was just giving a sermon

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