Kaitlin Nootbaar, a straight-A Oklahoma high school student, is being denied her diploma because she used the word "hell" in her graduation speech as valedictorian, and she and her parents are furious.
In delivering her address during the Prague High School graduation ceremony in May, the teen alluded to instances where people would ask her what she wanted to do with her life as graduation approached, to which she said, "How the hell do I know? I've changed my mind so many times," her father David Nootbaar told KFOR.
The statement received laughter and applause from her fellow graduates, her father said. But when Kaitlin went to collect her diploma this week, school officials said they won't release the certificate until she writes an apology for using the word.
The script for the speech, inspired by Eclipse: The Twilight Saga, includes the word "heck," but Kaitlin used "hell" in the moment. She says she doesn't intend to write the apology requested, as she earned the diploma through coursework, state exams and extracurriculars. The teen has also earned a full scholarship to college.
In a statement to KFOR, Superintendent Rick Martin said officials cannot publicly comment on the confidential matter.
"She has worked so hard to stay at the top of her class and this is not right," David Nootbar said.
A similar incident occurred in June when high school senior Anthony Cornist was denied his diploma because, school officials said, his friends and family cheered so loudly for him that it disrupted the ceremony.
"I did nothing wrong except walk across the stage," the Ohio teen told WCPO at the time.
The school demanded that the student complete 20 hours of community service to obtain the certificate.
Across the country in Brentwood, Calif., more than 20 students from Heritage High School were suspended and denied from walking in their graduation ceremony in June because of a senior prank that school officials said went too far.
For their grand exit prank, the teens tied a lamb to a pole, relocated a 500-pound concrete bench, stole school banners and splattered paint around campus. The students' parents sought legal action to stay the suspensions so the teens could take exams required for graduation.