Tampa 5th grader's religion speech sparks controversy - WFLA News Channel 8

Tampa 5th grader's religion speech sparks controversy

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Zachary Golob-Drake Zachary Golob-Drake
Golob-Drake's speech stirred up controversy Golob-Drake's speech stirred up controversy
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) - Zachary Golob-Drake, a 5th-grader at the Patel Partnership School in Tampa, won first place in his class for his speech about the history of people using religion to justify murder.

He has a brief paragraph on the Crusades, Genghis Khan and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. He ends the speech by encouraging the "Golden Rule", saying that would "make the world a better place." 

(Read the FULL TEXT of the speech)

But, he says, his blue ribbon was stripped from him by the end of the school day on Wednesday.

Golob-Drake was supposed to deliver the speech Thursday morning to the entire 4th and 5th grades. Two winners - one from each grade - were to be chosen to represent the school at the the regional 4-H Tropicana Public Speech contest.

But Golob-Drake says the assistant principal pulled him aside before school was dismissed and told him his speech was inappropriate.

"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."

He said he told her he needed to think about it at home.

"She said to me probably the fairest thing to do is to take your ribbon," he said, noting that he then got emotional.

By the time his older brother picked him from school, he was crying. His brother ended up going back to school and talking to the assistant principal. Their mother, Rhonda Golob-Drake, said the assistant principal ended up giving back the ribbon. She then spent four hours on the phone with school officials and school district officials and called representatives from the Tropicana contest.

By the end of the night, the school decided to postpone the contest until Monday. In the meantime, parents of 4th and 5th graders will receive permission slips. The form will list all of the speech titles and let parents decide whether or not they want their children to hear Golob-Drake's speech or any of the other speeches.

School District Spokeswoman Tanya Arja said 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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