A Texas high school principal reportedly threatened to torpedo a student’s future in the United States Naval Academy over the student’s expression of faith during a high school graduation ceremony, but he’s remaining silent on the issue for now.
Principal Mick Cochran declined to respond to a WND request for comment today on the issue that erupted after student Remington Reimer “deviated” from a school-edited speech by expressing his faith and asking listeners to protect their religious and constitutional rights. School officials had responded instantly by turning off his microphone.
A letter from Liberty Institute to the school district about the dispute contains allegations of Cochran’s apparent attempt to retaliate against the student.
“On Friday, June 7, 2013, JHS Principal Mick Cochran met with Remington’s father, Todd Reimer, and informed him that he intended to punish Remington for his perceived misdeed during the graduation ceremony,” said the letter, from Liberty Institute Director of Litigation Hiram Sasser to the Joshua Independent School District.
“Specifically, he threatened to send a letter to the United States Naval Academy where Remington will matriculate in June 2013, advising them that Remington has poor character, or words to that effect,” the letter said.
The letter noted, “After consulting with a JISD attorney, Principal Cochran temporarily retracted his threat. As of his letter, Principal Cochran has not stated his intended action.”
Fox News reporter Todd Starnes noted the sentences that Reimer included in his speech, which the school district tried to prevent listeners from hearing:
“We are all fortunate to live in a country where we can express our beliefs, where our mics won’t be turned off, as I have been threatened to be if I veer away from the school-censored speech I have just finished. Just as Jesus spoke out against the authority of the Pharisees and Sadducees, who tried to silence him, I will not have my freedom of speech taken away from me. And I urge you all to do the same. Do not let anyone take away your religious or constitutional rights from you.”
“It was intimidating having my high school principal threaten my future because I wanted to stand up for the Constitution and acknowledge my faith and not simply read a government approved message,” Reimer told Liberty Institute.
Sasser now is representing the teen and is seeking a statement from the school district clearing the student of wrongdoing. He explains that Texas state law, federal law and the district’s own policy require the school to distance itself from the valedictorian’s speech, “including not editing or drafting Mr. Reimer’s speech and printing a disclaimer in the graduation program.”
Liberty Institute noted that statement must read, “the content of each student speaker’s message is the private expression of the individual student and does not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position or expression of the district.”
“Contrary to the law and its own policies, Joshua ISD school officials did in fact edit and attempt to control Mr. Reimer’s speech and failed to include the required disclaimer,” Liberty Institute said.
The organization explained how four different school officials censored Sasser’s speech before they eventually approved it.
Reimer’s actions made headlines when on June 6 school officials cut off his microphone in mid-speech when he added to preapproved statements an explanation of his relationship with Jesus Christ.
According to the local Joshua Star, Reimer thanked God for “sending His only son to die for me and the rest of the world.”
Earlier, Cochran said all procedures were followed correctly.
“The district has reviewed the rules and policies regarding graduation speeches and has determined that the policy was followed,” he told the Star.
Liberty Institute’s letter to the district, dated June 13, said it also served as formal notice under the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Chapter 110 of the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code.
The letter said the school, through that, created a limited public forum for valedictorians, who are not supposed to be censored.
“The school officials in charge of the graduation ceremony violated state law and the policy established by the Joshua ISD Board of Trustees,” the letter said. “If school officials had followed the board’s policy, graduation would have taken place without controversy.”
“We would like to meet with the superintendent before June 24, 2013, to resolve the issues surrounding the Joshua High School graduation that took place on June 6, 2013. Specifically, we are seeking a public statement from Joshua ISD exonerating Remington Reimer of any wrongdoing. All he did was simply follow state law and Joshua ISD policy… In addition, we are seeking a statement from Joshua ISD that in the future, school officials will follow [policy] and not deviate…”