The 2021 graduation ceremony of a California high school started with an unexpected farewell speech from the ousted principal, who was later escorted off stage.
On Thursday morning, May 27, Ben Nakamura, the former principal of Stagg High School took his chance to deliver a controversial speech on his removal from the position during the commencement of the graduation ceremony.
The principal informed the students of his leaving after a short year holding his post. His fate was decided after the school board voted 4-3 to remove him earlier this week.
In his speech, Nakamura talked about giving back to communities, representing family, fighting for justice, and against injustice.
“I came here to serve you, to love you, to be in the mix and the grind with you,” he said.
ABC10 reported that budget cuts were why the board did not want to retain Nakamura, who was not willing to lose his position this early. Nakamura did not explain why he was ousted in his speech but instead employed a different way of explaining it.
“That’s why I came here and why I only lasted one year—why I was kicked out—for one reason, that I truly love you and this community. I was kicked out,” according to a record posted on Facebook by Toni McNeil. Nakamura added, “The Board of Trustees this past Tuesday voted three to four to remove me as your principal and not listen to the community, nor the students, nor the families, nor the staff of Stagg High School.”
As Nakamura wrapped up his speech and left the stage, two men greeted him and accompanied the former principal off the premises.
A spokesperson for the Stockton Unified School District (SUSD), Melinda Meza, said due to the essence of his Thursday speech, Nakamura will not be attending the other two remaining sessions of the graduation ceremony. The ceremony was split into three parts due to a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Virus (COVID-19) safety measure.
“He did do his speech but he was escorted off campus because he didn’t follow protocol and it was deemed inappropriate,” Meza said, giving that the principal’s speech was not a part of the ceremony due to limited time.
“Other schools did do principal introductions during ceremonies, but Nakamura’s remarks ‘didn’t follow COVID-19 guidelines,’ as established by Biedermann for SUSD according to state health protocols,” she said.
Not all were accepting of Nakamura’s speech at the ceremony, however. Meza said that several parents were complaining about the event meant to celebrate the students and their educational journey with the school, but the former principal was using it to grieve over his suspended job.
Candelaria Vargas, the board trustee for the district, said the students deserve to know about their principal’s fate, that they would not think he is “abandoning them.”
“I feel really disappointed. I feel that our students deserve a reasoning for why he won’t be here next year, and he was just doing justice by them,” Vargas said.