June 9, 2006 -- Kyle Stublen had something to get off his chest -- and he decided to do it in front of all his classmates, as well as their friends and families.
The high school senior in Punta Gorda, Fla., has gained national attention after giving a graduation speech that depicted his school as full of cheating, drug use and preferential treatment for athletes.
"And this year I have the honor to graduate alongside so many of my peers in what I feel to be one of the most esteemed and worthy graduating classes that has had the privilege to pass through Charlotte High School," he said in his speech at the May 18 commencement.
"And our class is certainly worthy of this title, as we have gone so far as to steal college level tests from a trusting veteran educator just to attain a desirable grade," he read.
Stublen still praised his school's spirit of unity, which he said had triumphed over "felons walking across stage bearing stoles" and "cheaters receiving college credit"
Not the Speech They Expected
Stublen submitted a much tamer version of the text to school officials beforehand, but he said he intended to change his speech all along.
He had been selected to give the speech after beating out a handful of his classmates for the chance to speak at graduation.
Stublen said his actions were a last resort. "I had tried to go through all of the proper channels to address my concerns, but nobody was listening and nothing was being done. I knew I was going to have the mike to myself, and this was the opportunity to address my entire student body, parents, relatives and faculty. This was my chance to really make people aware of what is going on at Charlotte High."
Stublen -- an A student with plans to attend the University of Florida in July -- claimed the school's bathrooms are a haven for marijuana and cocaine users, that students steal tests from teachers and athletes skip out on coursework.
Student Leader Is Livid, Others Are Supportive
Some are calling Stublen a hero, but class president Rachel Libby is not impressed.
"Kyle's speech was a sophomoric attempt to voice his personal feelings. It was not intended to help the senior class, offer guidance or instill nostalgia, and it distracted from the dignity of the commencement ceremony," Libby wrote in an op-ed to her local newspaper, the Sarasota Herald Tribune.
Libby said she wished he had tried harder to find another way to air his complaints.
"Principal Duffy has an open door policy, and I know for a fact that Kyle never even attempted to contact him with his concerns."
Stublen admitted he spoke only to department heads, not the principal himself. But he says he's received a strong showing of support from both fellow students and parents who have told him "what you did was right and it needed to be said."
Tony Smith, Charlotte High senior class council vice president, thought Stublen's speech would improve his school. "Charlotte High is breaking," said Smith, who is the third generation in his family to attend the school. "Unless someone stands up and says its breaking, it's going to crumble."
While the school administration was furious with Stublen and withheld his diploma for five days after graduation, the school's principal is looking forward. "As the principal of Charlotte High, it is my obligation to look at his statements. If they are true, I want to make them right," Duffy said.
He has organized a task force to look into Stublen's allegations.
"I'm looking at this as a chance to make Charlotte High a better place."