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Tri-State Valedictorian told to change speech before graduation

10 minutes before graduation, Blackledge says school officials told him he couldn't reference his religion in his speech.

Imagine being Valedictorian for your high school class and were asked to change your commencement speech just minutes before you were scheduled to deliver it.

That's exactly what happened to one West Prairie high school senior this past weekend.

Sam Blackledge graduated the top of his class.

The Valedictorian wrote a speech to address his fellow classmates during graduation.

But just 10 minutes before the ceremony, he says school officials told him he couldn't reference his religion in his speech.

Sam Blackledge found out last week he was the Valedictorian of his graduating class.

Like many who graduate top of the class, he prepared a speech to address his fellow classmates.

"It was all very quick. Nobody really knew what was going on until I walked on the stage and said I would not be giving my original speech," said Blackledge.

Blackledge gave the speech, omitting the parts that the school asked him to omit.

But he doesn't agree with the school's request.

And now the difference in opinion has gone viral on Facebook.

"Even people I don't know, I've never seen before they come up and ask me if I'm the kid this happened to and they say I'm standing behind you," Blackledge said.

A nonprofit legal organization is now wanting to get involved in the issue.

"The Department of Education puts out guidelines every single year and it's very clear in those guidelines that student speeches like Sam's are protected by the first amendment," said Jeremy Dys of First Liberty Institute.

First Liberty Institute is based in Texas. It was created to protect freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

"If that requires us to pursue a formal legal complaint, that's certainly on the table or perhaps we can just make them aware that they violated the law here and that's enough," Dys stated.

KHQA reached out to Superintendent Carol Kilver today.

We have not heard back from her at this time.

Blackledge will meet with Kilver on Wednesdy to discuss the incident.

You can view Blackledge's original speech here.

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