High school valedictorian denied diploma over ‘hell’ speech says she won’t apologize

Kaitlin Nootbaar, the Oklahoma high school valedictorian who was denied her diploma after she used the word "hell" in her graduation speech, said on Wednesday she has no plans to apologize.

"I'm still not gonna issue an apology, because I'm not sorry for that," Nootbaar said in an interview on the "Today" show. "I'm sorry for other things. I'm sorry for the problems that this has caused the school, especially the teachers. I've heard they've been getting calls from numerous people, and that would be nice if that would stop."

Nootbaar graduated from Prague High School with a 4.0 grade point average, her father, David Nootbaar, told KFOR-TV. But school administrators told him that Kaitlin would have to submit a written apology in order to get her diploma.

"We went to the office and asked for the diploma and the principal said, 'Your diploma is right here but you ain't getting it. Close the door, we have a problem,'" David Nootbaar said.

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In her speech—inspired by a similar address in "Eclipse: The Twilight Saga"—Kaitlin recounted how annoying it is to be constantly asked what she wants to do as graduation approached. "How the hell do I know?" she said, according to her father. "I've changed my mind so many times."

"Ms. Nootbaar prepared an appropriate speech, which was approved by the high school principal," Rick Martin, Prague schools superintendent, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, she did not present the speech as written and used language that was inappropriate for a graduation exercise."

In the version she submitted to the school for approval, "hell" was "heck." But in the version she delivered at graduation, "hell" it was.

Nootbaar said she talked it over with her classmates before going on stage to deliver the speech, and they encouraged her "just say it."

Prague High School's mascot, it's worth noting, is the "Red Devil."

"I'm a veteran," David Nootbaar said on the "Today" show. "I feel that she has freedom of speech, and First Amendment rights. Why should she bow down to this man, when so many young men are putting their lives on the line to protect those rights?"

"The fact is, all the diploma really signifies is my achievements, and I know what I've achieved," Nootbaar, who will attend Southwestern Oklahoma State University this fall, added. "Maybe I'll never get my diploma—that's fine. I have other things to work towards in life, like my college diploma, becoming a marine biologist, becoming successful in my career. Those things are more important to me."