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Huntington Beach Principal Blocks 7th Grader's Speech for Invoking Patriotism

Saint Bonaventure Catholic School Principal Mary Flock finds herself facing public scrutiny—and a petition calling for her resignation—after barring a student from delivering a patriotic speech.

When 7th grader Jimmy Heyward entered the running for Commissioner of School Spirit and Patriotism, administrators at Saint Bonaventure Catholic School revoked his right to speak. They had hoped it would end there, with Heyward being entirely silenced. Instead, it led to a shocking series of events, including his public humiliation, the involvement of the police, and an outpouring of community support.

In a Facebook post published to the Huntington Beach Community Forum, Heyward’s mother provided her family’s account of the incident. As part of the election process, candidates were required to submit their speeches for review. Heyward, who was running for a position that explicitly included "Patriotism" in its title, naturally included patriotic themes in his speech. However, Principal Mary Flock asked him to remove any mention of patriotism from his address. 

Confused and frustrated by the request, Heyward worked with his family to make revisions but kept the spirit of the speech in tact. When Flock requested that all allusions to patriotism be removed entirely, Heyward stood his ground. 

“My love for America is my motivation for running for Commissioner of Patriotism and School Spirit,” Heyward wrote in his speech. “It is an honor to live in this country. Sadly, some people take their citizenship for granted, whether it is disrespecting the people who protect us or earring nachos during the National Anthem at a sporting event… I want to fix this so everyone understands the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance.” 

On the day of the speeches, Flock forbade Heyward from speaking entirely. This decision left Jimmy humiliated as he remained on stage for an hour, watching his classmates deliver their speeches while he was skipped over. 

The situation escalated further when Heyward’s father, seeking to address the issue, went to the school to support his son and vocalize the family’s displeasure. Flock called upon the Huntington Beach Police Department to have him removed from the premises. However, the responding officers, after assessing the situation, informed Jimmy's father that he was free to stay and observe the event along with the other families. 

Officer Gismondi and Officer Koehler also reportedly expressed their support for Jimmy, commending him for his speech.

Later that day, Principal Flock sent an email to all parents at Saint Bonaventure Catholic School, attempting to explain the incident. In the opinion of Heyward’s mother, Flock "completely lied about what truly happened."

“Unfortunately, my decision not to allow the student to give his speech was met with hostility, necessitating the presence of law enforcement to ensure the safety and well-being of those present,” Flock wrote in her email. 

“Not only has this lady publicly humiliated my son, but she took his freedom of speech because he would not conform to what she wanted his speech to say,” argues Hattie Ruggles, Heyward’s mother. “This woman has no business being in a head position at our school, or any school.”

The incident has left the Heyward family feeling deeply upset and disillusioned with the school administration. They believe that Jimmy was unfairly censored and treated unjustly—that his right to free speech was abridged. Many parents and community members have rallied around Jimmy to expressing their admiration for his courage in standing up for his beliefs.

Among them is Huntington Beach Mayor Gracie Van Der Mark, who believes that Heyward deserves special acknowledgment.

“I watched the video of your son Jimmy reading his speech and I think it is beautiful!” said Van Der Mark. “I would love to have Jimmy and his little sister visit me at city hall so I can present him with a certificate of recognition for his hard work and his unwavering spirit of patriotism.”

It also caught the attention of X/Twitter owner Elon Musk, who responded to the story yesterday saying that “hating on America is not cool.”

The story’s silver lining is in the outpouring of community support for Heyward. Many concerned parents are responding to Ruggles with positive and affirming messages that her son will go on to achieve great things whether he gets the Commissioner position or not. Others are noting that incidents such as these explain why so many schools are hemorrhaging students—and funds—to alternative educational opportunities.

Ruggles has started a petition to have Mary Flock removed as Principal of Saint Bonaventure Catholic School. After two days, it has garnered 1,963 signatures.

“We need more Jimmy’s in this upside-down world,” said one Huntington Beach Community Forum group member. “Thanks, Jimmy, for standing your ground and trying to exercise your 1st Amendment rights! You will go far.”

“Jimmy, you have my vote!” says another.


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