After High School Student Blows Whistle on Christian Abstinence Speaker, She’s Told She Can’t Speak at Graduation

Another quick recap of the Katelyn Campbell story: Christian speaker (and Liberty University graduate) Pam Stenzel was invited to speak at George Washington High School in West Virginia. Student Katelyn Campbell told the media about how it wasn’t an optional assembly. In response, her principal, George Aulenbacher, threatened to tell Wellesley College (Katelyn’s future school) about how she was a “backstabber.” Katelyn told that to the media, too. Wellesley responded with open arms for Katelyn. As it turned out, one of the school board members confessed that her husband helped pay to bring the speaker to school.

Katelyn Cambell

There’s another update and it’s not a good one.

In the past, students who graduated with highest honors spoke during the graduation ceremony. Sounds like a long line of speeches, but this year that would have amounted to nine students speaking for about two minutes each. Really not a big deal. This year, Principal Aulenbacher decided to limit speakers to only the top two graduating seniors. He announced it yesterday, after the students had already written, submitted, and memorized their speeches… oh, and the move totally coincidentally removes Katelyn from the list of speakers.

Katelyn, who has a 4.8 GPA and is ranked seventh in her class, was disappointed to say the least:

I was shocked to hear from Mr. Aulenbacher today that myself and other highest honor graduates will no longer be permitted to speak at our graduation ceremony next Wednesday. For as long as I can remember, highest honor graduates of George Washington High School have been given the privilege to speak during their commencement exercises on their relationship to the class as a whole. This year, only the top two students will be allowed to impart their wisdom and experience. Dr. Duerring referred to the situation as a process of “streamlining” the event that has been in the works since September. While this is all fair and good, why were students notified today, precisely one week before our graduation, that the speeches we had written were moot? Why has it been advertised for months that highest honor graduates should turn in their speeches to the appropriate authority for review?

Politics, I suppose, play a greater role in the graduation of seniors than I had previously expected.

-Katelyn

In a longer statement made to the website Liberals Unite, Katelyn mentioned how other students were also looking forward to the chance to speak at graduation. While the request to expedite graduation ceremonies had been in place for months, it’s a horrible bit of timing on the principal’s part. If he knew only two speakers were going to be onstage, it’s something he could have told the affected students months ago. It’s hard not to think this is some passive aggressive form of retribution.

Obviously, it’s not the end of the world. Katelyn’s graduating and she’ll be gone from this awful Christianity-promoting school. But what a way to end her high school career — with a last-second slap in the face from her principal.

The Charleston Gazette spoke with Aulenbacher about this and he said:

“This is absolutely nothing against [Campbell],” he said. “Anybody that knows me knows that I’m not hateful toward kids. That’s not me at all.”

Of course, that would be easier to believe if he hadn’t threatened to blackmail one of his best students.

(Thanks to Brian for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X