Students at Winfield High School in Winfield, WV have started a petition asking the Putnam County Board of Education to reconsider their decision to remove a popular graduation day tradition.
Coach Leon McCoy is well known in Winfield, WV. He has made it a tradition to speak at Winfield High School's graduation. But after complaints from some parents about the religious theme in his presentation the speech has been called off.
Students are fighting back.
"I think it is very disappointing and unfortunate that Coach McCoy can't speak," said senior Hannah Clark. She said when she was a sophomore at Winfield High School McCoy promised her that he would speak at her graduation. Now he will not be allowed to keep that promise.
"The fact that it is being taken away on the year I get to graduate is really disappointing," said student Chris Cochran.
The Putnam County Board of Education in Putnam County decided the speech he has been giving for years violates a Supreme Court ruling that bans state sponsored prayer in public schools.
"I'm lost. I have done it for so long," McCoy said.
Superintendent of Putnam County Schools Chuck Hatfield released a statement on the matter Wednesday.
"Unfortunately, whether we agree with a law or not, all public schools, including Winfield, are in the position of making decisions that must comply with the law. This decision is not about anyone's personal thoughts, feelings or beliefs," Hatfield said. "Leon McCoy has had a huge impact at Winfield High School, and I have supported him and consider him to be one of my dear friends. Whether I support him or not, I have to uphold the law."
Students said they will follow the rules but plan to continue fighting for their beliefs.
"Now I have to take a good look at it and admit by their standards I am breaking the law," McCoy said.
Winfield High School's graduation is set for June 5.