School withholds diploma for class president who gave his own speech

Posted at 7:54 AM, Jun 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-15 07:54:40-04

EDGECOMBE COUNTY, NC (WRAL/CNN) - It's a day you can't get back: Your high school graduation day.

For one senior class president, it's a day he will never forget. He wrote and read his own speech instead of the one the school wrote for him and was denied his diploma.

"I really worked hard on this speech," Marvin Wright said.

Wright decided at the last minute to read a speech he wrote to Southwest Edgecombe County High School's graduating class, instead of the one the school wrote for him.

"I think my classmates would like to hear what I have to say instead of the one you wrote for me," he says in a video of the ceremony.

In the video, the principal and other staff members are seen talking behind Wright, clearly upset he wasn't following orders given at rehearsal.

"My thing to him was to follow your heart," said Jokita Wright, his mother.

Jokita Wright told her son to deliver a speech he would be proud to say.

"You know, he put God first. He spoke about parents, his classmates and spoke about his mom," she said.

When Wright left the stage, he discovered the principal had taken his diploma.

"I only have one chance to graduate from high school and it was really an embarrassing moment," Marvin Wright said.

Jada Barnes, a classmate, said she thought it was disrespectful and hurtful "not only to him and his family, but to all of us."

The school system gave no specific reason for wanting Wright to recite their simple, short paragraph. Sources said Wright's speech was too long and that he failed to meet an approval deadline, one he says he was not aware of.

"The expectation is that all graduation speakers read the speech that has been prepared and placed at the podium," said a school spokesperson. "It is very unfortunate that his diploma was pulled, and it should not have happened. An apology has been issued to Marvin and his family."

Copyright 2017 WRAL via CNN. All rights reserved.