Middletown South Students Receive Diplomas After Controversial Speech
Class presidents Eric Dominach and Mike Sebastiano said they were initially denied the documents when they went to pick it up on Monday.
High school graduates across the country are being feted this month. However, two members of Middletown High School South’s class of 2012 believe this rite of passage has been marred for them after they were initially denied their diplomas.
Senior class presidents Eric Dominach and Mike Sebastiano created a stir at Middletown South’s graduation ceremony on Thursday when they presented a speech containing passages administrators had previously asked the pair to remove. On Monday, when Dominach and Sebastiano went to the high school with friends to pick up their diplomas, the boys were denied the document.
“We were told that since we strayed from the speech there would be consequences and we would need to meet with (Middletown South Principal Patrick) Rinella and the superintendent,” Dominach said.
The speech, currently available on Facebook, contained references to school administration and specific students. One portion Sebastiano said the pair had been asked to remove was a joke thanking “the 50 other vice-principals we have.” The passage was meant to poke fun at the fact that the high school has five vice-principals, Sebastiano said.
The speech also included a pun on the phrase “board of education,” which the pair had been asked to remove, according to Sebastiano said.
“We would also like to thank the Board of Education because frankly now that we’re graduated, we can all say we’re getting bored of education,” Dominach and Sebastiano said during the speech.
In addition, the pair made a brief mention to underage drinking.
“It’s honestly been a great four years. So many friends made, memories made and livers damaged,” Dominach and Sebastiano said.
According to Patti Dominach, Dominach’s mother, the boys found the requests for speech revisions and stricken passages absurd at a certain point.
“The boys understood clearly if they chose to deviate, there could be consequences. They chose to exercise their freedom of speech,” Patti Dominach said. “I can only guess there were some egos involved here and because Eric and Mike did not toe the line, they wanted to punish them.”
When the pair met with Rinella and Middletown Township School District Superintendent William George in the week after the speech, Dominach and Sebastiano said the passages administrators voiced concern over were not the references to the district staff and policy, but inside jokes mentioning certain students by name.
“We were told that the district was checking to see if we had violated the state Harassment, Intimidation & Bullying law,” Dominach said. “They wanted to contact people had been mentioned in the speech.”
The two senior class presidents said that these references had been included in the approved version of their speech.
“Other speeches had people mentioned in them,” Dominach said, noting that those student speakers had not been disciplined or questioned. “We believe they wanted to make an example of us.”
After the boys left Middletown South on Monday without their diplomas, the pair took to Facebook to alert their social network to their situation. Dominach created a Facebook event and invited 200 people to attend the Middletown Township Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, June 20. Additionally, Dominach and Sebastiano urged friends to alert the media. By Wednesday, Sebastiano and Patti Dominach were allowed to pick up the diplomas.
Middletown’s superintendent said he was unable to comment on issues concerning individual students.
“All students who participated in graduation ceremonies have received their diplomas,” George said when Middletown Patch asked about Sebastiano and Dominach’s situation after Wednesday’s board meeting. “We’re talking about a student matter that I can’t speak to specifically.”
For Patti Dominach, the week following her son’s graduation proved a stressful one.
“I believe Eric and Mike deserve a public apology. I don’t find joy in a kid who is an honors student being denied his diploma. This is supposed to be a joyous occasion. These are good kids,” Patti Dominach said.