When a Texas high school valedictorian's microphone was shut off in the middle of his graduation speech last week, that may have only been the beginning of his problems with school officials.
Now Remington Reimer, a recent graduate of Joshua (Tex.) High School, has retained Liberty Institute to clear his name after his former principal allegedly indicated he would write a letter to the school where he's headed this fall -- the Naval Academy -- to inform officials there of Reimer's actions during his speech.
Remington Reimer (Credit: KXAS-TV )
According to Liberty Institute, the principal threatened to send a letter to the U.S. Naval Academy to "ruin Mr. Reimer's reputation in retaliation for delivering a speech of his own choosing, which included references to faith and liberty."
Liberty Institute added a statement from Reimer: "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."
TheBlaze ran a story noting that Reimer's speech was likely cut off because he veered from his prepared remarks to discuss losing his freedom of speech, not because he mentioned God or his faith.
Liberty Institute alleges that after the ceremony, Principal Mick Cochran met with Reimer’s father and informed him “that he intended to punish Remington for his perceived misdeed" by sending a letter to the Naval Academy saying Remington "has poor character or words to that effect." But after consulting with a district attorney, Liberty Institute says Cochran "temporarily retracted the threat."
As it turns out, Reimer's father, Todd Reimer, is a doctorate-level physics and math teacher at Joshua High School. Also an adjunct professor in the English department at Dallas Baptist University, according to his profile page on the JHS site, the elder Reimer has not yet responded to TheBlaze's request for an interview.
Principal Cochran offered a two-word response to TheBlaze's request for comment on the allegations: "Not true." He later added, "The young man and I spoke the following day, we shook hands and moved on. The facts are being blown out of proportion. The incident is over." Cochran has not returned phone calls asking for an interview.
On the day of graduation, a local news outlet posted a short profile on Reimer, and you'd never know by reading it that there were any issues:
"During Remington's freshman year, we needed to find a sport for him to participate in and we sort of randomly chose JROTC, thinking that he would just try it for a while and see how he liked it," said Reimer's father Todd Reimer, who also teaches physics at JHS. "But, as it turned out, it was the best thing that ever happened to him. He loves it. And now he's going to the Naval Academy." [...]
Cochran said that he has no doubt that Reimer, who plans to major in physics, will be an outstanding addition to the naval academy.
"He has a great inner drive," Cochran said. "You could put Remington in the middle of a desert all by himself and he would still find a way to be successful. I fully expect him to be a general someday. For that young man, the sky is the limit."
Today Liberty Institute sent an official notice letter to the superintendent and board of the Joshua Independent School District. According to the letter, school officials broke Texas state law in two ways:
- by not distancing themselves from the content of the valedictorian's speech;
- by not printing a disclaimer in the graduation program that should state "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."
While the superintendent, Fran Marek, hasn't responded to TheBlaze's requests for comment, we found this statement from Marek on the district's Web site:
The District has reviewed the rules and policy regarding graduation speech, and it has been determined that policy was followed at the Joshua High School 2013 Graduation Ceremony. The valedictorian, salutatorian, and class historian speeches were reviewed in advance by the campus staff, prior to the graduation ceremony. Student speakers were told that if their speeches deviated from the prior-reviewed material, the microphone would be turned off, regardless of content. When one student’s speech deviated from the prior-reviewed speech, the microphone was turned off, pursuant to District policy and procedure.
Joshua ISD Superintendent
"These school officials broke the rules and violated state and federal law and their own board policy," said Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute Director of Litigation, in a prepared statement. "They should be ashamed of themselves for violating school board policy and causing this needless embarrassment for Joshua ISD and the Joshua community. Remington followed the rules, why can't they? We expect the good folks on the school board to take appropriate action to ensure their policies are followed next time."
In the letter to the board and superintendent, Liberty Institute wants a public statement from the Joshua Independent School District exonerating Reimer of any wrongdoing and an indication that they won't interfere with speech's like Reimer's again.
According to the Dallas Observer, the Burleson Star newspaper ran with this text of Reimer’s speech, portions of which were apparently cut off during the graduation ceremony:
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.
Here’s a video snippet of Reimer getting cut off mid-speech:
(H/T: Todd Starnes/Fox News)