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Controversy Over 5th-Grader’s Religion Speech

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File photo of a classroom. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of a classroom. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP/Getty Images)

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TAMPA, Fla. (CBS Tampa) – A 5th grade student won first place after he gave a speech about the history of people using religion to justify murder, but was stripped of his title the same day by a school official.

Zachary Golob-Drake gave the speech to his class at the Patel Partnership School in hopes that he would be chosen to represent the school at the regional 4-H Tropicana Public Speech Contest, WFLA-TV reports. He was to deliver the speech Thursday morning to the entire 4th and 5th grades classes and two winners, one from each grade, were to be chosen to represent the school.

Golob-Drake said the assistant principal told him his speech was inappropriate before school was dismissed.

“She started talking to me about how she thought my speech wasn’t appropriate for 4th and 5th graders and she thought that probably I would have to rewrite my speech, take the religion out or not compete,” Golob-Drake explained to WFLA.

He told her that he would need to think about it at home. There is a brief paragraph on the Crusades, Genghis Khan and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 in his speech. He ends it by encouraging the “Golden Rule,” saying that it would “make the world a better place.”

“She said to me probably the fairest thing to do is to take your ribbon,” Golob-Drake said.

He was crying when his older brother arrived at the school to pick him up. The assistant gave back the ribbon after his brother went and spoke to her, Rhonda Golob-Drake, their mother said. Rhonda Golob-Drake spent four hours on the phone with school officials, district officials and representatives from the Tropicana contest.

The school postponed the contest until Monday. Parents of 4th and 5th grade students will receive permission slips detailing all of the speech titles to let parents decide whether or not they want their children to hear the speeches.

School District Spokeswoman Tanya Arja told WFLA that school officials told her that the controversy wasn’t about the religious aspect.

“The concern was over the topic of mass murders,” Arja said. “Because these are 4th and 5th graders.”

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