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Old 05-24-2006, 03:30 PM   #1
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Default This Kid is a Hero!


CHARLOTTE COUNTY -- Aspiring trial lawyer Kyle Stublen just wanted to share his version of the truth with classmates, teachers and thousands of people at Charlotte High School's graduation.

So the A student, an unlikely troublemaker and star of the school's mock trial team, decided not to gush. He delivered a scathing, ironic speech devoid of the sheen decorating most high school graduations.

At its heart, graduation is a time when schools celebrate success.

But Stublen described a school where students stole tests, sports were more important than academics, and guidance counselors encouraged some students not to apply to college.

It wasn't the speech he had submitted in a contest to win the honor to speak at graduation.

"As I reflect on the last four years of my life here at Charlotte High School, I truly understand what Tarpon Tradition has come to mean in our school," Stublen said in his speech, referring to the school's mascot, the tarpon fish.

"It isn't the felons walking across the stage bearing stoles or the cheaters receiving college credit; it isn't the drugs being done in the bathrooms during lunch and it most certainly isn't the exclusive cliques. Tarpon Tradition is the unity that triumphs over all barriers, bringing us closer together as a family."

His speech spurred demands for apologies and a he-said she-said battle for his diploma -- which school administrators awarded Tuesday after they received a flurry of media phone calls.

The fight was worth it to Stublen, a member of the school's mock trial team who once tried to start a debate club.

"I wanted to educate parents and students and staff who are unaware about what's really going on," Stublen said. "If I'm speaking the truth, then I have the right to do so without repercussions."

School leaders said they felt deceived because the speech he gave was never approved.

Instead, Stublen had submitted a glowing account of life at Charlotte High, its passionate teachers and "one of the most esteemed and worthy graduating classes that has had the privilege to pass through Charlotte High School to become members of this close-knit Tarpon Family."

As he stood at the lectern Thursday night before an audience that included his parents, he delivered the speech he had planned all along.

"From the moment I heard about the graduation speeches, I knew that's what I wanted to do," he said.

George Sansone, senior class adviser and 38-year veteran teacher, said he felt betrayed. "It was like airing your dirty laundry. This was a celebration for all the seniors, not about the issues he himself encountered."

Stublen's father, Robin Stublen, said he and his wife, Greta, a teacher at Deep Creek Elementary School for 20 years, did not know about the new version of the speech.

"Had I known, I wouldn't have discouraged him," said Stublen's father, who lost two races for a seat on the County Commission and has a reputation for being outspoken.

"I'm proud that he did what he did. It took a great deal of courage knowing what the possible outcome could be. I think what's disrespectful is the way the school has been handled."

Starting next year, speech contestants will be warned about bucking the rules on the big day, Sansone said.

Stublen was allowed to finish giving the speech only because school administrators did not want to further disrupt the ceremony. He also was allowed to walk up to Charlotte High Principal Barney Duffy and receive his diploma cover.

"I did not want to take away from the dignity of the ceremony for the other students and their families in attendance," Duffy said.

Sansone called Stublen off stage after the speech. According to Stublen, Sansone told him he would not receive his diploma until he apologized to the principal and the senior class.

When the other students picked up their diplomas after the ceremony, Stublen's was missing.

Sansone admitted he withheld the diploma the night of graduation.

"To be honest, I can't remember all the things I told him," Sansone said. "I was really upset."

Stublen didn't make any more attempts to get his diploma until Sansone called him Tuesday afternoon.

Stublen didn't apologize to Sansone or Duffy, saying that would have undermined the point of his speech. He did, however, apologize to the teacher who selected the winning speeches.

"I'm not sorry about the speech," Stublen said. "The only thing I'm really sorry about is that I had to lie to do it."

Duffy said the diploma was never being withheld.

Legally, school officials can bar students from participating in the graduation ceremony, but they cannot withhold diplomas, Duffy said.

Stublen received his just in time to start summer school at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he hopes to secure a business degree and attend law school.
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Old 05-24-2006, 03:38 PM   #2
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Default Re: This Kid is a Hero!

too bad there are not more students like this guy all over the country. I hope my boy grows up with integrity and the courage like this kid to speak his mind.
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Old 05-24-2006, 04:48 PM   #3
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Default Re: This Kid is a Hero!

Awesome Suit! Thanks for sharing this.

"Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance and the gospel of envy. Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery." - Winston Churchill

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Old 05-24-2006, 05:11 PM   #4
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Default Re: This Kid is a Hero!

Bravo, Kyle Stublen... Bravo!
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Old 05-24-2006, 05:23 PM   #5
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Great post Suit, well worth the read!
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Old 05-24-2006, 07:05 PM   #6
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good for him, thanks for sharing that
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Old 05-24-2006, 09:16 PM   #7
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Nice. Has anyone here seen the documentary "High School"? These filmmakers basically conned a school's administration into giving them unlimited access to the school by telling him they were making a film to show off the student's academic success and highlight the excellent job done by the staff. When it was shown to the entire student body at the end of the year, it was exactly the opposite. They exposed all the b.s. and embarassing failures of the staff, showed students cheating on tests, and basically running the place. Good stuff.
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Old 05-25-2006, 01:44 AM   #8
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Default Re: This Kid is a Hero!

That's pretty much a yearly ocurrence at my old high school. The funny thing is, the stuff that the speaker at my graduation brought to light was actually fixed the next year. Good read.
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