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”.
This upset his mother, Rhonda Golob-Drake.
That’s not what the speech is about at all. That gives the wrong impression.
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.