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Sunday, June 20, 2004

School Pulls Plug on Commencement Speech - Latino Feels Imprisoned in American School

Newsday.com - AP News

By Associated Press

May 20, 2004, 8:06 PM EDT


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- School officials pulled the plug on a senior class president's commencement speech shortly after he referred to his high school as a prison.

Nicholas Noel's microphone was cut off immediately after he described the Grand Rapids Union High School as "the Union High prison system." School officials also refused to give Noel his diploma, saying he will get it later.

Assistant principal Ken Larsen said school policy requires prior approval of commencement speeches and Noel had changed his script.

Noel, who plans to attend Grand Valley State University in the fall, told The Grand Rapids Press he made the comment because students were expected to act alike at the school. The message of his speech was that high school offers "a picture of life that is incomplete," he said.

He said the rest of his speech would have been positive had he been allowed to complete it. A copy of his written speech, however, went on to call the school a "foul institution" and a "horribly irresponsible and depraved place to learn these life lessons."

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