CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. (WLWT) – Christian Bales, a star student at Holy Cross High School, was denied the honor to give his valedictorian speech at Friday’s graduation.
The Diocese of Covington made the ruling 10 hours prior to the graduation ceremony leaving many to speculate why. Here’s what happened, according to Director of Communications Tim Fitzgerald:
"School officials and representatives of the Diocese of Covington reserve the right to review and approve all student speeches to be presented in public at high school graduations. All speeches must be submitted in a timely manner.The student speeches for the Holy Cross High School graduation were not submitted for review before the deadline.When the proposed speeches were received, they were found to contain elements that were political and inconsistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church."
"Well, obviously, it’s gut wrenching, you know, just immediate sadness because, as a parent, when your child feels pain, you feel it as your own," Bales’ mother, Gillian Marksberry, said.
Instead of speaking during the graduation ceremony, Bales gave his speech just outside the Connor Convocation Center at Thomas More College, armed with a megaphone.
His speech touched on the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School, and wanting to make a difference.
"I didn’t think it was very polarizing. It was, like, about empowerment through youth," Bales said.
Many who had heard about the last-minute denial came to support Bales.
"I honestly just can’t fathom words because it’s just so heartbreaking because this kid has worked four long years," North College Hill High School junior Kaycie Gardner said.
Bales is openly gay and doesn’t know if that played any role in the decision to not have him speak at graduation.
"I honestly have no idea because what I’ve been taught about the Catholic faith is that it’s about love and tolerance and acceptance of all people," Bales said.
His classmates circled around, listening to every word he had to say.
"I felt my heart swell because Christian is an amazing human being," Marksberry said.
"The fact that they came out there is probably more significant than if I would have been able to give it with a microphone inside of the auditorium," Bales said.
Bales said he turned the final copy of his speech in Tuesday.
In it, he thanked teachers, parents and faculty.
He told his classmates to continue to use their voices to better the lives of everyone they encounter.
Bales was not the only student denied the right to speak by the diocese. The student council president also was not permitted to give her speech as planned at Friday’s graduation.