Valedictorian barred from mentioning Jesus in speech, considers - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Valedictorian barred from mentioning Jesus in speech, considers lawsuit

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Sam Blackledge spoke on Monday. Sam Blackledge spoke on Monday.
MCDONOUGH COUNTY, Ill. (WGEM) -

Sam Blackledge is the West Prairie High School Valedictorian, and he says he was informed by administrators that he couldn't reference his faith in his speech during commencement.

Blackledge is now being represented by Jeremy Dys, of the First Liberty Institute.

Dys said on Monday that his office is going to conduct an investigation into the event, and they will file a legal complaint if need be.

"They actually violate the constitution." Dys said. "They'd do well to remember Tinker v. Des Moines, the case in 1969 reminds us, that students do not shed their constitutional rights when they walk through the school house gates."

Dys also said that Blackledge had been informed by the school on Thursday that he was the valedictorian, and he turned in a copy of his speech to administrators Saturday afternoon.

"The Department of Education by the way puts out guidelines on this every single year, and it's very clear in those guidelines that student speeches like Sam's are protected by the first amendment." Dys said.

Blackledge said that he was informed by school administrators only ten minutes before the ceremony that he wasn't allowed to speak about his faith.

"There's always people out there that will go against what I have to say, and nobody always agrees, but I believe this is the truth." Blackledge said. "It's impacted my life, and I wanted to share the hope of Christ with others."

Blackledge added that the he's experienced strong community support through all of this.

"Even people I don't know and never have seen before, they come up to me and ask me if I'm the kid that this happened to and then they say I'm standing behind you." Blackledge said. "And I really appreciate all the support."

Blackledge also said Superintendent Carol Kilver reached out to him, and they have a meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

We reached out to Superintendent Kilver for comment on the matter, but have yet to hear back.

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