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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 ’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.

gjc June 22, 2012 at 08:06 PM
This is not isolated to Middletown. For years, we have read all kinds of idiot stories about schools, administrators etc. placing all kinds of extreme punishments on school kids for the dumbest of reasons. This is just one example of that. Sadly, in our nation we tend not to think of kids as citizens - people to be exact - who have rights.
David Zurheide June 22, 2012 at 09:12 PM
For the content of these students' cleverly crafted speech to have raised so much concern within the Middletown School's adminsitration is beyond ridiculous. I was in attendance at graduation and considered the comments to be benign and with no intent at ill will. Although the overall education in Middletown is very good, how about focusing on meaningful communication (for example, the graduation date was a closely guarded secret) and educating our children? In addition, there were far deeper issues with one other student who was allowed to speak despite such student's well known transgressions!
LAM June 23, 2012 at 01:04 PM
I agree with David. There was much more discussion about the other student who was allowed to speak. If someone didn't know what went on during the year, they certainly found out on the walk out of the Monmouth University Center. These "far deeper" transgessions were obviously "overlooked" by administration, while a cleverly worded speech by 2 respected students,that infused some humor and fun into the event were attacked. The message sent to the students, both newly graduated and current, was sad.
GPS June 23, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Regardless of freedom of speech, its an event of accomplishments, pride and sucess. Most of these kids think that making ridiculous comments are funny and they are not! Putting down the administration, other kids, environment and minimizing the entire 4 years should not be acceptable regardless of their Honors status! Actually that should be incentive to provide a better speach! They should have made the kids do at least 200 hours of community service directly involving school and then given them their diplomas. As a mother, I would support it. I was embarrassed at my son's graduation about 2 speaches only at 2011!
ASimon June 23, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Good grief that "Bored of Education" comment was used in the Little Rascals! And the Middletown Board of Ed and school administration seriously tried to characterize this as bullying issue? It is sad to see what passes for leadership in this township. For many of the thin-skinned board members, their position is merely a means of networking for their bread and butter businesses like real estate. These people have no clue about education or about young people. This whole matter is an embarassment, and I don't mean for the two kids involed.
LM June 23, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Of course the BOE had a fit since it highlighted the nonsence of multiple vice principals. Why is the BOE not trying to withhold the paychecks from the Thorne Middle School staff members who on the cover of the year book misspelled school. They spelled it "scool"
LC June 24, 2012 at 02:01 PM
LC Don't we live in a country that does allow Freedom of Speech. These boys had already earned their diplomas by graduation and should never have been denied receiving theirs. Yes they mentioned " 50 Vice-Principals" in jest but, maybe we should look into the fact that we really have 5 at MHSS. Do we really need that many, that is a lot of tax-payer money going to their salaries. Are our schools really that bad that we need 5 vice-principals in each high school? I am a former graduate of Middletown when there was only 1 high school. My graduating class was close to 1000 students and we never needed that many vice-principals. Maybe the BOE should look into that instead of making such a fuss over a speech that was meant to entertain and inspire the students.
Diana Sutton June 24, 2012 at 09:20 PM
I am not surprised. There is too much power sometimes in the hands of these administrators. My daughter was denied a letter for participation in gymnastics because she wouldn't attend a meet she wasn't competing in, on her 18th birthday. They make up arbitrary punishments and get away with it. 5 vice principals? If the kids think it's too many shouldn't that raise a red flag somewhere?
LFBrenn June 25, 2012 at 07:47 AM
I for one hate to think what these two boys will do in college. As far as the comment on freedom of speech try these expressions in another country and see what you get. I don't agree that in these times that five vice principals is necessary (it is a waste of taxpayers and townships money). Yes the boys do deserve their diplomas but they should take a hard look at themselves as what their comments have done. LFAB
JJ June 25, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Product of Middletown schools? SPEECH not SPEACH...come on now. Here is salary info for those Vice principals: http://php.app.com/edstaff/results2.php?county=MONMOUTH&district=MIDDLETOWN+TOWNSHIP&school=Middletown+-+South+H.S.&lname=&fname=&job1=Assistant+Principal+High+School&Submit=Submit
Paul Lund June 25, 2012 at 01:16 PM
LM- Your spelling correction above is ironic.
marylou June 25, 2012 at 05:26 PM
But,the fact is that we live in the USA,where we have free speech.Are you saying that other countries are better than we are because they do not?
gongshow22 June 25, 2012 at 08:25 PM
There are so many more important things in life than a school worrying about their egos. Good for the kids!
JJ June 26, 2012 at 03:02 PM
School salary info for Vice principals at South: http://php.app.com/edstaff/results2.php?county=MONMOUTH&district=MIDDLETOWN+TOWNSHIP&school=Middletown+-+South+H.S.&lname=&fname=&job1=Assistant+Principal+High+School&Submit=Submit
PK June 27, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Did you hear the 2012 speech? There were no "put downs" of other kids/students. As a matter of fact, both Eric and Mike received "thank yous" from fellow students that were mentioned as well as congratulations from parents in the community. The fact that SO MANY of these Middletown residents were ready to attend the BOE meeting to show their support for these boys proves that the community, in general, believes the administration and superintendent took inappropriate actions. Re your thoughts on community service, Eric Dominach has already completed over 200 hrs. during his H.S. career. As a matter of fact, he is in Toronto this entire week on a mission trip with his church.

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