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 2:17 AM
Updated: May 31, 2018 2:17 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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 48201

Reported Deaths: 2693
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11624683
Lake5146242
Elkhart328546
Allen2762129
St. Joseph194366
Cass16389
Hamilton1552101
Hendricks1403100
Johnson1278118
Porter72837
Tippecanoe7158
Madison65864
Clark65144
Bartholomew58544
Howard57557
LaPorte57326
Kosciusko5464
Vanderburgh5226
Marshall4924
Noble47828
Jackson4703
LaGrange4708
Hancock44835
Boone44243
Delaware44250
Shelby42525
Floyd37944
Morgan32931
Grant29426
Monroe29428
Montgomery29420
Clinton2892
Dubois2736
Henry26315
White26310
Decatur25032
Lawrence24425
Dearborn23623
Vigo2348
Warrick21429
Harrison21322
Unassigned193193
Greene18832
Miami1822
Jennings17611
Putnam1698
DeKalb1624
Scott1607
Daviess14317
Wayne1386
Orange13623
Steuben1292
Perry1279
Franklin1248
Jasper1212
Ripley1167
Wabash1122
Carroll1102
Fayette997
Newton9810
Starke933
Whitley925
Huntington812
Gibson802
Randolph794
Jefferson722
Wells721
Fulton701
Jay680
Washington671
Knox640
Pulaski641
Clay604
Rush583
Adams501
Benton480
Owen471
Sullivan441
Brown391
Posey390
Spencer381
Blackford372
Crawford320
Tipton321
Fountain312
Switzerland270
Parke230
Martin220
Ohio170
Vermillion140
Warren141
Union130
Pike110

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 57150

Reported Deaths: 2911
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin10271422
Cuyahoga7724373
Hamilton5924197
Marion273238
Lucas2723302
Pickaway219141
Summit2131206
Montgomery198126
Mahoning1825232
Butler157644
Columbiana130360
Stark1107112
Lorain102167
Trumbull93965
Warren83921
Clark7659
Delaware56815
Fairfield55916
Tuscarawas55210
Belmont54622
Medina51632
Lake49718
Licking47712
Miami46331
Portage44058
Ashtabula43344
Wood42151
Geauga40542
Clermont4006
Wayne36251
Richland3375
Allen31540
Mercer2818
Greene2519
Darke24825
Erie24222
Holmes2313
Huron2152
Madison1958
Ottawa14323
Crawford1355
Sandusky13414
Washington13220
Putnam12815
Ross1243
Hardin12312
Morrow1161
Auglaize1064
Coshocton972
Monroe8917
Jefferson872
Union851
Muskingum831
Hancock781
Hocking788
Preble731
Guernsey703
Lawrence700
Williams702
Clinton680
Shelby684
Logan621
Fulton610
Ashland591
Carroll593
Wyandot586
Athens561
Brown561
Knox511
Defiance503
Fayette460
Highland451
Champaign401
Scioto380
Perry341
Van Wert340
Seneca332
Henry290
Jackson230
Paulding230
Pike230
Adams221
Vinton222
Gallia171
Harrison121
Meigs120
Morgan110
Noble110
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 82°
Angola
72° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 72°
Huntington
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 75°
Decatur
Overcast
79° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 81°
Van Wert
Overcast
79° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 81°
Few Storms Tuesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events