Parents Outraged as Principal Blocks Son from Giving Patriotic Speech at School Election

By: Georgia | Published: May 27, 2024

At Saint Bonaventure Catholic School, a controversy has arisen involving Jimmy Heyward, a middle-school student running for “Commissioner of School Spirit & Patriotism,” who was prevented from delivering his campaign speech. 

His parents claim that Principal Mary Flock barred him from speaking because the speech included patriotic content that she found objectionable.

Principal's Tough Call: Remove Patriotism or No Speech

Jimmy’s mother, Hattie Ruggles, has publicly stated that Principal Flock requested changes to the speech, specifically to remove references to patriotism.

group of diverse students sitting in chairs, facing away from the camera, watching a speaker at a school assembly

Source: Sam Balye/Unsplash

According to Ruggles, “Jimmy stood up to her and said he wasn’t going to take the parts about patriotism out of his speech,” which led to him being barred from delivering it at the school assembly.


Student's Response to Speech Censorship

Despite being instructed to modify his speech, Jimmy decided against making the changes. 

High school students wearing safety glasses and casual clothing engaged in a workshop class

Source: Jeswin Thomas/Unsplash

His mother’s statement in a Change petition highlights his decision: “She then told him he would not be speaking.” Consequently, Jimmy was present on stage but did not participate while other students delivered their speeches.

Alleged Humiliation During School Rally

According to his mother, Jimmy experienced public humiliation as he sat silently on stage during the rally. 

A school assembly with students on stage and in the audience wearing red, white, and blue attire, in front of a backdrop featuring an American flag

Source: St. Bonaventure Catholic School - Huntington Beach, CA/Facebook

“Jimmy sat on stage with all the other candidates while they said their speeches. Mary Flock directed the kids hosting the rally to skip Jimmy entirely,” Ruggles stated, describing the situation as a complete humiliation by Principal Flock.

Symbolic Attire Worn by the Student

During the school election rally, Jimmy wore a red hat and a campaign sign styled after Donald Trump’s iconic merchandise, but with the text “Make SBS Great Again.” 

Close-up view of a red baseball cap embroidered with the slogan "Make America Great Again" in white letters

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This attire was meant to complement his speech and campaign theme, which emphasized school spirit and patriotism.

Parental Confrontation at School Event

The incident escalated when Jimmy’s father, Ed Heyward, confronted the school’s principal and vice principal at the assembly. 

A group of school children standing and participating in a church service, with the congregation sitting in pews

Source: St. Bonaventure Catholic School - Huntington Beach, CA/Facebook

He accused them of discrimination, stating that “his views didn’t align with theirs.” This confrontation added to the tension of the situation.


Involvement of Law Enforcement

The situation escalated to the point where the Huntington Beach Police Department was called. “The principal then called the Huntington Beach Police Department to remove the upset father,” Ruggles mentioned

A Huntington Beach Police Department SUV parked near the beach, with palm trees in the background under a clear sky

Source: Huntington Beach Police Department/Facebook

However, after discussing the matter, the police allowed Mr. Heyward to stay and watch the assembly with other families.


Principal’s Explanation in Email Communication

Following the event, Principal Flock sent an email to parents explaining the decision to prevent Jimmy from speaking. 

Inside a church, school children in uniform sit in pews attending a service. The church has a modern design with a large, colorful stained glass window above the altar where a priest is speaking

Source: St. Bonaventure Catholic School - Huntington Beach, CA/Facebook

She mentioned that the speech did not have the required approval for the adjusted final version, which was necessary to align with school values.


School Defends Its Decision Amidst Criticism

Saint Bonaventure Catholic School issued a statement defending its decision.

A priest in white robes stands among school children inside a church, holding a book and engaging with the students who are raising their hands in participation

Source: St. Bonaventure Catholic School - Huntington Beach, CA/Facebook

They said, “St. Bonaventure Catholic School is dedicated to fostering a Catholic, Christ-centered learning environment… We encourage freedom of speech, recognizing that allowing students to express their thoughts and ideas is crucial for their growth and development.”


Reason for Speech Rejection Cited by School

The school acknowledged the positive aspects of Jimmy’s speech but expressed concerns over what it described as “negative comments.” 

A walkway leading to the entrance of St. Bonaventure Catholic School, lined with red banners that read "Home of the Saints," with lush greenery and a statue on the side

Source: St. Bonaventure Catholic School - Huntington Beach, CA/Facebook

This led them to request modifications to ensure the content remained positive and respectful, in line with the school’s values and Christian Code of Conduct.


Dispute Over Speech Approval

The Heyward family asserts that Jimmy’s final speech draft was submitted on time and viewed by the principal, contradicting the school’s claim that the speech delivered at the rally was not the approved version. 

Students in school uniforms standing on a balcony outside the entrance of St. Bonaventure School, which is marked by a sign that reads "Saint Bonaventure School."

Source: St. Bonaventure Catholic School - Huntington Beach, CA/Facebook

This discrepancy is central to the ongoing dispute between the family and the school.


Broader Community Reaction to the Incident

The incident has sparked discussions within the Huntington Beach community and beyond, about the limits of free speech in educational settings and the appropriate balance between school policies and individual expression. 

A church service in progress at St. Bonaventure School, showing students and teachers sitting in pews facing the front, with a priest visible in the background and a large stained glass window illuminating the room

Source: St. Bonaventure Catholic School - Huntington Beach, CA/Facebook

Both sides of the debate remain firm in their positions as the community closely watches the unfolding events.