UPDATE: School’s rights in diploma dilemma
PRAGUE, Okla. — Since Friday when News Channel 4 first approached the school about the diploma situation, they have refused to talk to us on camera and Tuesday still have not returned our latest phone calls.
Now, a local attorney said school administrators could find themselves in court if they don’t release the diploma.
If you didn’t know her name before, you probably know it now.
Kaitlin Nootbaar, the now infamous valedictorian of Prague High School.
Administrators are holding her diploma because she used word “hell” in her graduation speech.
“I feel like students who didn’t work very hard at all still got their diploma,” Kaitlin said. “There are people who have done far worse things than I did and they had no problems getting their diploma.”
Now her father, David Nootbaar, is consulting attorneys.
“My office has been in contact with the family and I think, clearly, the father wants to get this resolved,” attorney David Slane said. “But when you arbitrarily act in this fashion, she has no recourse other than to go to court.”
Slane said state law and the First Amendment are on Kaitlin’s side.
“The law said if you complete all the course work and requirements, you get your diploma,” Slane said.
We contacted the State Schools Superintendent.
We’re told no school has the right to hold a student’s transcript.
However, a spokesperson said because Oklahoma is a local control state, a school has the right to hold the paper certificate or make like decisions without higher government getting involved.
“According to the school’s own rules, there’s only two grounds to withhold a diploma and that is vandalism, clearly no one says that she engaged in vandalism, and the other is if she had some sort of unpaid fee like a library book or something else,” Slane said.
Slane said, “I think that would be a real mistake for the superintendent and the school board to give its tax dollars to a courthouse as opposed letting it go towards teachers or a librarian, or a cafeteria for kids.”
Kaitlin said working to get to the top of her class wasn’t easy but she wanted to secure her future.
“Like a lot of families, we don’t have a lot of money and we all know that college is expensive,” Kaitlin said. “I didn’t want my parents to worry about those finances. Getting a scholarship was my main motivation.”
Graduation ceremonies are considered an extra curricular activity and attendance is not required for graduation.
It’s important to note, Kaitlin said she doesn’t want this to reflect negatively on all the wonderful teachers and staff at her school.
Just another reason many say she is a class act.
The family will be on the Today show Wednesday morning.
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