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(LifeSiteNews) — The principal of a Catholic middle school in Southern California is facing backlash after preventing a student from delivering a speech to his classmates that drew inspiration from Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign theme. 

13-year-old Jimmy Heyward attends Saint Bonaventure Catholic School in Huntington Beach. He prepared his remarks for a pep rally in hopes his classmates would vote for him to be Commissioner of School Spirit and Patriotism. 

A petition launched on May 19 by Jimmy’s mom Hattie Ruggles maintains that principal Mary Flock directed students to skip Jimmy when it was his turn to speak. 

“Jimmy sat on stage with all the other candidates while they said their speeches … he was on the stage for an hour in front of his peers/teachers/parents being completely humiliated by Mary Flock,” the petition, which calls for Flock’s dismissal and has received over 6,500 signatures, reads. 

Flock had apparently asked Jimmy to change his speech previously and he refused. It is not clear which specific parts she deemed inappropriate or whether he or his parents were informed he would not be allowed to speak when it was his turn on the stage. Either way, his dad Ed confronted Flock and the vice principal, who called the police.  

While law enforcement was able to de-escalate the situation, Flock reportedly sent out an email to St. Bonaventure parents later that day. The email allegedly stated that “this incident reminds us of the importance of maintaining a respectful and inclusive environment within our school community.”  

St. Bonaventure defended its decision to censure Jimmy in a follow-up statement to Fox News. While admitting that school administrators “felt encouraged by the words of patriotism” in Jimmy’s prepared remarks, they were “discouraged by what is perceived as some negative comments and sought adjustments to make it more positive.”  

We are “dedicated to fostering a Catholic, Christ-centered learning environment that builds a community valuing respect and integrity,” the statement said. 

Jimmy’s speech has since been uploaded on social media. It is unclear which parts of it could have been “perceived” as being “negative.” 

While noting that he plays baseball, Jimmy laid out his plan to improve the school’s courtyard and make pep rallies more enjoyable. He also explained that he would seek to have “Holocaust survivors, 9/11 survivors, Japanese-Americans from internment camps, and more,” come to the school to instill a love of country.  

Jimmy then explained that “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 eating nachos during the national anthem at a sporting event. Many people recite the pledge of allegiance without understanding its meaning… I want to fix this,” he said. 

Jimmy concluded his brief remarks by stating, “I will make the school spirit great again. I will make patriotism within SBS great again. And mostly I will make SBS great again! Thank you and God Bless St. Bonaventure Catholic school.” 

According to its website, St. Bonaventure School was founded in 1966 by the Irish Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Irish priest Msgr. Michael Duffy was the parish priest at the time.  

St. Bonaventure is located in the Diocese of Orange, which is run by Bishop Kevin W. Vann. For respectful comments only for His Excellency, contact Santiago Avila at [email protected]. To contact the school directly, email [email protected] or call (714) 846-2472. 

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