Fifth Grader’s Speech on Religion Sparks Controversy

Fifth Grader’s Speech on Religion
Zachary Golob-Drake, Tampa, FL

After a fifth grade student at Patel Partnership School in Tampa, Florida won first place in his class for delivering a speech on how people have used religion to justify the act of murder for years, he was stripped of his blue ribbon. On December 11, Zachary Golob-Drake spoke about the Crusades, Genghis Khan’s aggression and the 9/11 attacks of 2001 before ending his speech by saying that the Golden Rule would “make the world a better place.”

However, he was stripped of his blue ribbon by the end of the school day after the school’s assistant principal pulled him aside to tell him that his speech was inappropriate and he needs to think things over at home. As winner of the class competition, Golob-Drake was supposed to deliver his speech to all the students of the fourth and fifth grades the following morning. If he won the final round of competition, he would also have represented his school at the regional 4-H Tropicana Public Speech contest.

“She started talking to me about how she thought my speech wasn't appropriate for fourth and fifth graders. She said that I would have to rewrite my speech, take the religion out or not compete,” said Golob-Drake.

Golob-Drake was crying by the time his older brother arrived to pick him up from school at the end of the day. He confronted the assistant principal and she returned his blue ribbon immediately. Their mother Rhonda Golob-Drake spent four hours talking to the school officials, district officials as well as the representatives of the Tropicana contest.

By the end of the night, the school had postponed the competition until December 16 and sent out permission slips to parents of all fourth and fifth grade students. The form listed all the speech titles so that parents could decide whether they wanted their children to be audience to Golob-Drake’s speech.

According to the school officials, the religious aspect of the speech did not spark any controversy. “The concern was over the topic of mass murders because this is about fourth and fifth graders,” said Tanya Arja, school district spokesperson.



Debapriya Chatterjee

The authorities deem it fit to persecute a 10-year old for acquiring knowledge that other 10-year olds do not have the maturity to register?

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