Censored Florida lad Zachary Golob-Drake delivers his ‘inappropriate’ speech – and wins a gold medal

LAST week international outrage was generated after it was revealed Zachary Golob-Drake, a 5th grader at the Patel Partnership School in Tampa was the victim of an outrageous gagging order by the assistant principal Candice Dodd.

After winning a blue ribbon for a speech he wrote in which he pointed out that religion was, and still is the cause of many conflicts, he had his ribbon revoked, and was told that his speech was too controversial to be read in a competition.

The fury generated by the incident led the school to back down and on Monday, he finally got to deliver it – and he was not only chosen to represent the entire 5th grade at the regional 4-H Tropicana Public Speech Contest, but won another blue ribbon PLUS a gold medal. He said:

I was so nervous. I’m so happy and excited.

School officials had postponed the speech contest the previous week, having decided that the “inappropriate” nature of Zachary speech required parents to sign permission slips so they could decide whether they wanted their children to step out during this, or any of the other speeches.

However, the permission slips misrepresented the content of Zachary’s speech, labeling it “Religious Beliefs Regarding Death”.

Zachary and his mum Rhonda

Zachary and his mum Rhonda

This upset his mother, Rhonda Golob-Drake.

 That’s not what the speech is about at all. That gives the wrong impression.

Here is the full text of that speech.

She said four students left the room when her son got up to speak. And three students left during a speech about Nikki Manaj, an American rapper, singer, songwriter, actress, and television personality.

It’s kind of funny that three of the four students who left during Zachary’s speech had already heard the speech last week during the class presentation.

Now for those of you who may have missed it, Zachary’s mum yesterday posted a brilliant response under our original post:

I am Zachary’s mother. Thank you to all of those of you who have supported our family through this. I appreciate so much that Zach has become the subject of so much conversation. My heart aches for any child who puts that much work into something, is selected as examplary, and then has his prize stolen from someone uncomfortable with the content.

I typed that speech from his handwritten copy off of notebook paper for him, and I saw absolutely nothing controversial. It is full of factual information (at the 5th-grade level, of course), information which could be found in textbooks or historical internet websites. The only opinion is the end when Zach suggests that we all treat each other as we want to be treated to “make the world a better place.” There aren’t a lot of people who would argue against that.

For the person who asked, the older brother who picked Zachary up is 24. It took 45 minutes of arguing to get the blue ribbon back. When she gave it back, it was still with the understanding that Zachary could keep the ribbon, but that he would not be allowed to present the speech.

It took four hours of phone calls to get them to allow him to present the speech. The school sent home permission slips with the subjects of the speeches, and they labeled Zachary’s subject as ‘Religious Beliefs About Death’, giving parents the opportunity to have their children pulled out of any of the speeches. Four of the 52 students present left during Zach’s speech. Labeling his speech as ‘Religious Beliefs About Death’ was totally off the mark.

Zach wants to go into journalism as an adult, and he writes just for fun, even when it’s not a school assignment. He reads constantly and is extremely insightful about many things. I have always joked with people that Zachary is a 30-year-old trapped in a little, short body. His vocabulary is incredible. He uses words that keep me cracked up all the time. When I asked him if he regretted my calling the media, he responded, ‘No way. You’re just protecting my Constitutional rights’. Funny, huh?

When we toured his school 1.5 years ago (Zach was 8), he walked with the principal and engaged him in conversation that included questions about the school curriculum. I stepped back and walked about 10 feet behind Zach and the principal, wondering if Zachary would notice if I dropped out of the tour. He was successfully managing his own affairs.

Anyway, you can see the video of him walking out of the school (jumping out of the school) after receiving his First Place ribbon and medal if you find the follow-up story. For us, we were just happy that he was objectively judged.

Sadly, however, his school is on modified lockdown for the week, and law enforcement is parked on the premises because so many people have made threatening online remarks and so many people have called the school.

Most are Zachary supporters, but others have criticized Zachary. Some have accused me of using my son to ‘push an agenda’.  I guess I am pushing an agenda – making sure that my 10-year-old son isn’t stifled by a school district or its representatives because they are uncomfortable with what he has to say.

I don’t necessarily agree with speeches of the other children, but that doesn’t mean we walk away. As a family, we listen, discuss things, and then accept that people disagree – and that’s ok. Opening the mind long enough to listen to others is how learning takes place.

NOTE: We found two videos about this report. You can view them here and here.


12 responses to “Censored Florida lad Zachary Golob-Drake delivers his ‘inappropriate’ speech – and wins a gold medal”

  1. jay says:

    It’s a bit sad, the reference to constitutional rights while the courts have pretty much stripped constitutional rights including any sembmance of free speech from ststudents as well as presumption of innocence .

    Schools are permitted to discipline speech and behavior outside and unrelated to school.

  2. L.Long says:

    This never happened tome in any major way as I was lucky enough to have good teachers for my kids. But the main reason my wife got a job working in the school was to essentially spy on them because as a little girl she had a terrible time in school and no half-baked teacher was going to do that to her kids.
    Zak sounds like he may being going places in his future if he doesn’t get knocked sideways during the teen years as they can be deadly, psychologically speaking.

  3. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    Well Done Zachary and how sad that there are those threatening a young child.

  4. Broga says:

    It is shocking that this kind of treatment should be inflicted on a talented 10 year old who ought to be intellectually nurtured and not stifled. What this episode again demonstrates is the way that religion is threatened by free speech and facts. It also demonstrates that instead of engaging in discussion and an exchange of views the first recourse of religion is censorship and punishment.

    Today we have the internet. The appalling behaviour of religious figures in authority is open to challenge and exposure as never before. And time after time their behaviour is shown to be so shameful that embarrassment makes them retreat. In the past they could just punish the child and that would be kept secret. Every example like this is another step forward and away from the medieval mindset.

  5. Stephen Mynett says:

    Very Impressed with Zachary and his family, it is always nice to see people who believe in education and not indoctrination.

    An interesting quote from Zachary’s mother: “Some have accused me of using my son to ‘push an agenda’.” It seems to always be the intransigent pushers of their own religion, politics etc that force their views on their children that are the quickest to accuse others of the same. Perhaps a new commandment for the bible should read: “Thou shalt not allow thy child to think.”

  6. charlie says:

    This young boy and his family make me proud to live in the same country they do.
    On the other hand, those who threaten him make me very ashamed to know they also live in this country.
    I see absolutely NO harm done by asking ALL humans to treat each other as they wish to be treated. That goes way back in time, long before the Hebrews created their own, vile tribal doG Yahweh or whatever the hell its name is. It is also NOT exclusive to the xtian brand of religion, just because the mythic Jesus Christ supposedly said it, does NOT make it the property of him nor his followers.
    If this young boy can be allowed to grow up in an atmosphere of real learning, not a sure thing in the US of A today, he may make a really good journalist, but certainly a very decent human being.
    Cheers to this young boy AND his family. Big thumbs down to those who feel threatened by his speech, shame on them all for that rude behavior.

  7. Suzanne Burrall says:

    Mrs. Golob-Drake, 

    You have two intelligent, self-confident, respectful sons who know how to take care of themselves and each other. It is good to know they will be, and are already, contributing members of society.

    Thank you,

    A mom

  8. Maggie says:

    There is nothing more offensive to the religious than the truth and they will use threats and violence to stop it being heard. This is a case in point.

  9. Matt+Westwood says:

    “Perhaps a new commandment for the bible should read: “Thou shalt not allow thy child to think.””

    Already there.

    Something about: a child who defies (i.e. stands up to and questions the orders of) his father is to be put to death.

  10. Caute says:

    Good man. Well done.

  11. Looks like Fox News has a future challenger… good on him, and his brother, and a blue ribbon to his mom for services to humanity, I think.