Thirteen years of hard work means less than a pseudo-curse word.

The Valedictorian of an Oklahoma high school is being denied her diploma.  What crime did she commit?  She had the unrestricted gall to utter a word with a universe of impropriety stuffed into a single, wretched syllable during her graduation speech: “hell.”

Kaitlin Nootbaar graduated from Oklahoma’s Prague High School back in May of this year and was named valedictorian.

In her graduating speech which was inspired by the film Eclipse: The Twilight Saga, she accidentally said the word “hell” instead of “heck”- a move which her father claims has cost her dearly.

“Her quote was, when she first started school she wanted to be a nurse, then a veterinarian and now that she was getting closer to graduation people would ask her what do you want to do and she said ‘How the h*** do I know? I’ve changed my mind so many times,” David Nootbaar told local TV station KFor.

The audience laughed and she was given a round of applause at the end of her speech. But when she went to pick up her high school diploma this week, she was told by the principal she will not get in until she writes a letter of apology.

Kaitlin has said she will not write an apology.

Kaitlin said she will not write the letter as she believes she didn’t do anything wrong, but she is due to start college in just a few days on a full scholarship.

The local school superintendent declined to comment on the matter which he said was “confidential”.

However Kaitlin, should you change your mind, I am somewhat of a writer and deal with administrations like this for a living.  I think it’s possible to convey the proper amount of contrition with wording that concedes an appropriate level of respect to your principal.  If it’s alright with you, I’d like to help write your apology letter.

Dear Principal of Prague High School,

Go to hell.  You’re lucky I have so many good memories of attending school at PHS that I don’t jump straight to suing your ass (and, by extension, the school district) back to the stone age (which was probably the last time anybody gave a good god damn about someone saying “How the hell do I know”).  You want me to apologize for using a pseudo swear word when you don’t blink an eyelash denying me my due for thirteen years of applying myself diligently in school?  You clearly have some pretty backwards ass priorities in terms of what demands remorse.

I knew a kid who was overheard saying the word “bitch” in the hall one day.  That landed him in detention for half an hour after school.  But when the school’s fucking Valedictorian says “hell” the school decides to revoke the credit for each test I got an A on for the last thirteen years?  Are you serious?  If the school thought you were a paragon of intelligent decision-making, a diploma from PHS probably isn’t worth much.  But I put in the effort, so I’m damn well going to get what’s mine.

Give me my fucking diploma by the end of the week before I lawyer up and let you assholes buy me a new house right out of college.  This is a fight you can’t possibly win; a fight that will embarrass you, and the school for which I busted my ass for thirteen years, in the national spotlight.  How eager are you to piss away a shitload of the district’s money showing the rest of the country that you place less value on the work of one of your school’s most accomplished scholars than a word you don’t like?

Pretty fucking sincerely,


Hope it helps.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • hockeybob

    Whoa – remind me never to piss you off, good sir. ;-)

  • Susi

    ♥ excellent apology! :)

  • GBJames

    I think that’s the proper amount of contrition.

  • http://NA DAN BRIGGS

    I think this letter shows the appropriate amount of respect, and diplomacy. You seem to be about as diplomacic as I am. Again kudos for a very “respectful and diplomatic” letter.

  • FelixBC

    Guess what the school mascot is? The Red Devils.

    But that’s sports, so that’s ok.

  • Loqi

    My response in this situation would be something like: “I hereby apologize for quoting from Twilight because the books were shit and the author of them ought to be ashamed. Oops, I said another bad word. Are you going to revoke my fucking birth certificate now?”

    • Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven


  • lorrainewalker

    That suggested “apology” letter sounds just perfect to me!

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Maybe she could get a supporting letter from the mayor of Hell, Michigan.
    Go to Hell, Michigan

    • TGAP Dad

      Michigan is a place wher you can go from hell to Paradise (or the other way around) in a day. And yes, Hell occasionally freezes over!

    • M. A. Melby

      I’ve been there. They have good ice-cream and you can sit on a park bench in front of a nice waterfall and eat it.

  • eric

    You may be jumping the gun. “Release the diploma” sounds to me like they are denying her the piece of paper, not the legal reality of graduation.

    I’m not sure what’s going on in OK so this is all just a guess. But that was a trick my MD high school district also used (back in the cretaceous) to try and keep student behavior in line. ‘We may not be able to stop you from graduating, but if you seniors pull your shennanigans, you don’t get the nice mantlepiece chachki you want.’

    So, again just a guess, but her state records and transcript will probably say she graduated. Her college career and scholarship is probably not in jeopardy. She just doesn’t get a nice certificate for framing (which is still odious).

  • Kaoru Negisa

    How pathetic of a human being must you be to be an adult who demands that a teenager debase themselves for not following your code of proper diction? Seriously, this is just power-play masturbation, a petty attempt to show that he’s still in control.

  • A Hermit

    Sounds about right…

  • steve84

    She could just write the usual “I’m sorry if I offended anyone” notpology. But the proper course of action is to fight these idiots

  • Randomfactor

    Of course, if she’d quoted any of the numerous uses of the word from the Buy-Bull, they’d have given her a scholarship. It’s Okiehoma.

  • baal

    “But when she went to pick up her high school diploma this week, she was told by the principal she will not get in until she writes a letter of apology.”

    Wow, the principal is massively guilty of big-fish-small-pond. He deserves to be reminded of that.

  • Kindnblue

    JT……you are awesome! My daughter is starting High School in one week. All I could picture was you writing this for her! Thank you.

  • pwillow1

    Wow, the principal sounds like a real tin-pot dictator on some sort of power trip.

    Loved your suggested not-pology letter, JT, and I do hope that Ms. Nootbaar sticks to her guns and decides to adopt your letter as her own. Really, does anybody frame and/or display their HS diploma? I have mine still in the leatherette folio. When I was applying to take some college courses recently, I was told that a copy of my HS diploma wouldn’t be accepted as proof I had graduated. I needed my high school transcript from 1976.

  • smrnda

    I don’t even have actual copies of my college degrees. They *cost something* and at the time, sending out official transcripts were expensive enough that I couldn’t justify spending anything for a poster that just had my name on it.

    Either way, schools aren’t about education. They’re about conditioning students to submit to authority and obey rules, no matter how pointless and stupid either of those may be. The lucky few will got to college and be allowed some greater privileges, but that’s really what schools aim to teach.

    It might be fun to get some sort of letter-writing campaign on her behalf. It would be funny for the principle’s mailbox to be constantly jammed full of mail in which writers make liberal use of the word ‘hell.’

  • kantalope

    That letter is awesome.

    But where is the notpology paragraph for:

    I am very sorry that there are people that are small minded, petty, and ignorant enough to be offended. And I am even more sorry that one such person has been given a position of authority in an organization that is theoretically about education.

  • Whelve

    This is why I adore you. If only I had known someone like you way back I was in high school…

  • MikeMa

    I do hope the dictator principal enjoys his notoriety. Not the way I’d want to notch my 15 minutes.