13-Year-Old Denied Speaking During California School Election Over ‘Patriotic’ Content

13-Year-Old Denied Speaking During California School Election Over ‘Patriotic’ Content

Jimmy Heyward hands out flyers for his mother's boutique in Huntington Beach, Calif. (Courtesy of Ed Heyward)

Sophie Li

Sophie Li

5/25/2024

Updated: 5/26/2024

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A Catholic school principal from Huntington Beach, California, is facing scrutiny after parents alleged she denied their son the opportunity to speak during a school election due to the “patriotic” content of his speech.
Thirteen-year-old Jimmy Heyward, a student at Saint Bonaventure Catholic School, was scheduled to give his speech May 16 at a school rally as he ran for the student government position of “Commissioner of School Spirit and Patriotism.”
However, he instead sat on the stage for an hour—wearing a red hat that said, “Make SBS [Saint Bonaventure School] Great Again,” alluding to former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan—watching his fellow classmates make their speeches without being able to deliver his own, his father, Ed Heyward, told The Epoch Times.
According to Mr. Heyward, Principal Mary Flock had asked Jimmy earlier to remove a paragraph about patriotism from his draft speech, warning he would not be permitted to deliver it if he did not comply.
In the speech shared with The Epoch Times, in addition to strengthening school spirit, Jimmy also discussed the importance of incorporating more historical events into the school curriculum. He also emphasized the importance of raising awareness about the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance at the school.
Mr. Heyward said that patriotism has been his son’s passion since a young age.
“My son is very interested in U.S. history. ... He loves our country and he’s very patriotic,” he said. “Starting with kindergarten when we asked him what he wanted to be for Halloween, he wanted to be George Washington. The next year, he wanted to be Abraham Lincoln.”
His passion was also one of the main reasons why Jimmy wanted to run for the position, Mr. Heyward said.
After learning about the principal’s concerns, Mr. Heyward said he helped Jimmy reword the part of the speech Ms. Flock had questioned. However, she rejected the speech once again before the event and instructed Jimmy to only address school spirit, he said.
Mr. Heyward, who was at the school to support his son during the speech, learned about the issue and confronted the principal saying that her decision “crossed the line,” and that it had left his son embarrassed.
He alleged the principal barred Jimmy from speaking because her beliefs didn’t align with his, which Mr. Heyward said was a “violation of Freedom of Speech.”
Additionally, the father alleged the principal changed the title of the position his son was running for at the last minute during the event.
“She took off the word patriotism. She purposely didn’t allow my son to speak and then left him up there to be humiliated in front of 100 people,” Mr. Heyward said.
The school subsequently called the Huntington Beach Police Department to remove the father from the campus after he tried to talk to the principal again.
However, Mr. Heyward said that when responding officers were informed of the situation, they sided with him and permitted him to stay and watch the remainder of the event.
Huntington Beach Councilman Casey McKeon, who said he has known the Heyward family for decades, said he was bothered by the incident.
“It’s shocking that a principal with a school would do those things to embarrass a 12-year-old kid in front of the whole school when you should be encouraging them to speak in public,” Mr. McKeon told The Epoch Times. “They should be allowed to give a speech they want to give as long as it’s not profane and inappropriate. It’s First Amendment rights, freedom of speech.”
Jimmy’s mother Hattie Ruggles later started a petition calling for the removal of the principal.
In a Facebook post by Mrs. Ruggles, a picture showed an email the principal sent to parents and teachers regarding the incident.
“As part of the Student Council election process, candidates were given a packet that contained directions, guidelines, deadlines, etc., for the election process,” the email said. “Several students were asked to adjust their speeches and resubmit them for approval. Despite our prior guidance and collaboration, not every speech was approved and could not be delivered to the student body.”
The email continued: “A student who was unwilling to alter his speech could not give it. However, it is important to note that all students remained on the ballot for the election.”
The principal added that calling law enforcement was to “ensure the safety and well-being of those present.”
The Saint Bonaventure Catholic School did not reply to the request for comment on deadline.
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Sophie Li

Sophie Li

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Sophie Li is a Southern California-based reporter covering local daily news, state policies, and breaking news for The Epoch Times. Besides writing, she is also passionate about reading, photography, and tennis.

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