The hell you say 

Just ask Kaitlin Nootbaar, the last academic year's valedictorian of Prague High School. Her reference of Hades' hangout in her valedictory address last May so irritated school administrators that they've withheld her diploma until she writes letters of apology to everyone short of the school's janitorial staff.

Kaitlin's father, David Nootbaar, said he and his daughter were shocked when they met with the district superintendent, Rick Martin, on Aug. 17 to pick up the girl's diploma.

“He shut the door and pointed at her face and said, ‘You and me have a problem,'” David Nootbaar said.

And the problem? Kaitlin had made a joke in her speech that, well, let's just say it's spelled H-E-double-toothpicks. The actual remark — “Who the hell knows?” — came when she pondered how she didn't know what she wanted to do with her life.

David Nootbaar said he is particularly bewildered because Kaitlin had no inkling administrators in the Lincoln County school district were mad as you-know-what.

“At the graduation speech, there wasn't any shocked reaction. People kind of chuckled,” the father said. “The school let her finish her speech. The graduates walked across the stage. Nothing was said all summer long. We heard nothing and thought everything was fine.”

Martin said he would give up the diploma if Kaitlin apologized in writing to him, the principal, the school board and teachers. In a written statement, the superintendent noted that the salty language had not been preapproved by the principal. The statement incorrectly identified “Ms. Nootbar.”

David Nootbaar said his daughter, who recently began college at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, has nothing to be sorry for.

“This is the First Amendment, freedom of speech,” he said. “She didn't directly cuss anyone. I was at church Sunday: They said it four times.”

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Phil Bacharach

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