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Oklahoma Valedictorian Catches 'Hell' For Graduation Speech

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Kaitlin Nootbaar at the alumni paddle signing event. Kaitlin Nootbaar at the alumni paddle signing event.
PRAGUE, Oklahoma -

An Oklahoma high school is withholding the diploma for its Valedictorian all because of a word she used in her graduation speech. Many are calling the school's decision ridiculous and say it is uncalled for.

The word is hell. The FCC allows people to say hell on TV, and hell is commonly said in church. But, saying hell in the presence of the Prague High School principal apparently crosses the line.

Prague High School is home to the Red Devils. It is some irony to a story about a small word kicking up some big drama.

"It makes me very upset," the valedictorian's father David Nootbaar said.

David says little did his daughter know that one word in her speech would have jeopardized the very acknowledgement of all she has worked for.

"It seems excessive to punish her by not giving her [the] diploma," Prague resident Jerry Kitchin said.

In 18-year-old Kaitlin Nootbaar's speech, she quoted the movie Twilight saying, "they ask us now what we want to be, and we say who the hell knows."

Kaitlin says after the ceremony, the entire summer went by without a word from school administrators until the day Kaitlin and her father went to pick up the diploma from Principal David Smith.

"[Smith] pointed at [Kaitlin] and he said, ‘You and I have a problem. Here is your diploma, but you can't have it,'" David Nootbaar said.

David says the only way Smith would give his daughter her diploma is if she typed an apology letter to Smith, the superintendent, the school board and faculty.

"If I was to write an apology letter that would be me giving into his demands," Kaitlin Nootbaar said.

Kaitlin says writing such a letter would make her a liar because she doesn't think what she did was wrong.

News 9 called Prague High School but caught hell. The woman who answered hung up as News 9 attempted to reach Smith for comment. Instead, Superintendent Rick Martin released a statement saying the principal's request for an apology was reasonable.

"I can't imagine withholding a diploma for a reason like that," Prague resident Frank Wyatt said.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education says it could intervene if the district withheld Kaitlin's transcript to get to college. However, when it comes to diplomas, the buck stops with the district school board.

Kaitlin just recently started her college career at Southwestern Oklahoma State University on a full-ride scholarship.

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