Joshua ISD Cut its Valedictorian's Mic Last Night, But Maybe Not for Talking About God
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:
The valedictorian of Joshua starting talking about God in his speech and they turned his mic off. WOW jhs.
— რɑʗє (@macy_autumn) June 7, 2013
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.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Observer's biggest stories.