Principal Still Punishing Katelyn Campbell

Principal Still Punishing Katelyn Campbell May 19, 2013

Remember Katelyn Campbell, the West Virginia high school student who very publicly protested a dishonest and disgusting mandatory assembly on abstinence at her school? It seems the principal who threatened to call the university she planned to attend for that isn’t done trying to punish her:

“This morning, I and several others were called into Mr. Aulenbacher’s office for a brief meeting. For several months, all of us had been told that as highest honors graduates, we would be permitted to speak briefly on the topics of our choice during our commencement exercises. Each of us had prepared a presentation and we were eagerly awaiting graduation in hopes of leaving a final mark on our graduating class. Mr. Aulenbacher made the decision that this would not be so.

Recently, Mr. Aulenbacher decided to only allow the top two in our class to speak at graduation. Frustrated, hurt and confused, my fellow highest honor grads and I tried to reason with him, but to no avail.

Following our meeting, Obadah Moushmoush and I drove to the Board of Education office and spoke with Kanawha County Superintendent Dr. Ron Duerring. Obadah and I told him of our plight and asked if this was part of a larger county oversight, to which Duerring replied yes: since last year’s graduations, the county has moved toward a more streamlined policy on graduation exercises. Duerring said that in his memo to principals, he suggested that the principals only allow two student speakers to present. Although I understand why this policy of streamlining was put in place, I am saddened that even with this knowledge, Mr. Aulenbacher allowed students to prepare and submit speeches with the intention of actually delivering them. Said highest honor graduate Kate Webster, “I’ve never really been that involved at GW, and I felt like this was my last chance to make my mark.” Thanks to this last minute oversight, literally a week before our graduation, Kate’s mark will not be made. Neither will mine. Neither will Obadah Moushmoush’s. Neither will several others. And that, I think, is what makes this situation so ludicrous to me.”

I’d love to see that memo to the principals. I’d be willing to bet that it was only written after this whole thing happened. Otherwise, why not tell them long ago that only the top two would be speaking? Sorry, not buying this one bit.

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  • matty1

    I’m a little confused, the article says the top two students will get to speak but then describes Kate Webster as “highest honor graduate” and says she won’t get to speak. Doesn’t highest mean higher than anyone else making her the top scorer overall and so in the top two?

  • timberwoof

    Katelyn, your high school graduation is the biggest thing in your life right now, but it will pale in comparison to the aswesomeness of your college experience. Your high school principal has demonstrated that he’s exactly the sort of small, backstabbing bad character he accuses you of being. Jettison him. Publish your speech as a pamphlet and leave. Then leave your mark at Wellesley.

  • Randomfactor

    Ed, assuming this goes down the principal wanted, wouldn’t your column be an excellent venue for the remarks Katelyn would have delivered? Streisand effect and all that…

  • Cuttlefish

    matty1, “highest honor” is a category, not an individual (at least, it has been at every institution I have been involved with). These students all fell into that category (above merely “honors”), and in previous years, all would have been able to speak.

  • I second Randomfactor’s suggestion that Katelyn’s be offered here.

    Let’s not be surprised if Rush Limbaugh weighs in on this with his usual vindictive against women who dare to stand up for their rights.

  • Chiroptera

    Whoa! A public school had an assembly promoting abstinence? Do the Christianists know about this? ‘Cause whenever a school tries to teach “comprehensive sex education,” they usually scream about how teaching about sex should be up to the families, not the schools.

  • Ben P

    I’m a little confused, the article says the top two students will get to speak but then describes Kate Webster as “highest honor graduate” and says she won’t get to speak. Doesn’t highest mean higher than anyone else making her the top scorer overall and so in the top two?

    Honors = Cum Laude

    High Honors = Magna Cum Laude

    Highest Honors = Summa Cum Laude

    At my college those GPA Cutoffs were 3.5, 3.75 and 3.95. Don’t remember what they were in HS, but HS GPA’s were silly anyway because all of us that had taken lots of AP classes had 4.0+ because an “A” In an AP class was a 5 on a 4 point scale.

  • It always seems strange to me when people say that. I took all kinds of AP classes in high school, but they counted just the same as anything else on my GPA.

  • Katelyn: Hold your head high, get your diploma, party like it’s 2013, and never-ever-ever-ever-ever look back.

    Once you graduate, you owe the principal, the superintendent, and the board of education absolutely zero deference or respect. Put them out of your mind–you’re quite simply allowed to turn them into “non-people”.

    If you wish to maintain contact with your friends and colleagues from school, teachers who touched you or supported you — do that. But again, there’s no obligation.

    I left high school a LOOOOOOOOONG time ago. Never looked back; never felt the need to. There was always too much interesting stuff ahead. Still is.

    This will get better.

  • We’ll see what happens next year. I wonder if the “two student presents only” policy will be rescinded.

  • cactuswren

    @Chiroptera — it was exactly the sort of “sex education” TrooBeleevers want in schools. A woman came in and addressed the student body, telling them that sex outside of marriage invariably causes disease, that they’re “impure” if they’ve ever had any sexual contact, that “I could look at any one of you in the eyes right now and tell if you’re going to be promiscuous”, and that “If you take birth control, your mother probably hates you”.

  • timberwoof: You’ve got the right idea, but your phraseology is seriously quaint. Pamphlet?

    Surely the amount of influence a speech given in a high-school auditorium or gym during a pompous ceremony has is going to be minimal compared to that of the same thoughts delivered by a YouTube video, a Facebook group, and a properly chosen Twitter hashtag (at least among the under-65 crowd). Just use social media to deliver your speech. The one downside, of course, is that your speech will be accessible to future employers, and that will definitely limit your prospects with employers who see things thus:

    1. Risk management

    2. ???

    3. Profit

    On the other hand, employers who see things like:

    1. Viral social media campaign

    2. People want your product or service (even if they’d never have thought they needed it)

    3. PROFIT!!!

    will get in a bidding war over you.

  • lofgren

    It always seems strange to me when people say that. I took all kinds of AP classes in high school, but they counted just the same as anything else on my GPA.

    According to my guidance counselor way back when, the AP classes being graded on a 5 point scale is quite common in high school, but ultimately irrelevant since colleges invariably recalculate your GPA according to their own formulas in order to properly weight it against other schools. Your AP classes may have made it harder to be valedictorian at your high school, but ultimately counted for the same value as everybody else in the country’s in the only way that mattered, i.e. college admissions.

  • eric

    Well, the district does seem at this point to have made a prior (non-punitive) decision not to let her and several other students speak. However, its still highly screwed up. Consider these two things:

    (1) their justification for not letting seven students give two minute speeches was to reduce time. Eliminating five such students (two students will still speak) will save approximately 10 minutes.

    (2) Yet they never once questioned whether the abstinence speaker was necessary.

  • edmundog

    While I have nothing to offer but sympathy, I would like to state that Obadah Moushmoush is a great name.