Remington Reimer, the Texas high school valedictorian who had his graduation speech cut off last week, is now arguing that the school violated federal and state law in censoring him.
Reimer’s microphone was silenced during his valedictorian speech last Thursday, after he began to stray from the script he had previously submitted to school authorities. According to Joshua High School authorities, it is policy to silence the microphones of student speakers who deviate from previously approved speeches, regardless of the speech’s content.
However, Reimer is now claiming that the district’s actions -- including the fact that officials reviewed and edited his speech several times -- violate state and federal law.
Reimer, whose silenced speech was peppered with references to God, Jesus and the constitution, has attained legal representation from a conservative defense group that promotes religious freedoms.
His attorney, Hiram Sasser of the Liberty Institute, wrote a letter to the school board yesterday, explaining how the policy violates the law. The letter also asked for: a meeting with the superintendent regarding the issue, assurance that this policy will not continue and “a public statement from Joshua ISD exonerating Remington Reimer of any wrongdoing.”
The district must comply within 60 days to avoid legal action, according to the Liberty Institute website.
According to the site, state and federal law require districts to distance themselves from student’s speeches in order to protect students' First Amendment rights. The law states that officials are not allowed to edit the speech, although Reimer says this happened extensively. Furthermore, districts must print disclaimers in graduation programs maintaining that, “the content of each student speaker’s message is the private expression of the individual student,” the institute notes.
Reimer, who was previously silent on the incident, has been speaking out about his side of the story.
Reimer says he was threatened by the high school’s principal after giving his speech. According to Fox News, the principal threatened to write a disparaging letter to the Naval Academy, where Reimer is set to attend in the fall.
“He said he would do anything he could do to punish me, and the biggest one for me was a letter to the Naval Academy,” Reimer told the outlet.
However, the principal, Mick Cochran, told the Joshua Star that he recalls the incident differently.
"I didn't threaten Remington," Cochran said, according to the outlet. "I sat down with him in my office after the incident and just told him that I just wished that he would have spoken to me about what he was wanting to do before all this happened. We shook hands, I wished him great success at the Naval Academy.”
The district has not responded to requests for comment at this time.
Reimer’s speech comes at a time where some districts have come under fire for the religious content of their graduation ceremonies. Another Texas district recently received a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation when a teacher included a prayer in a preschool graduation ceremony.
Earlier on HuffPost:
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