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Winfield High Set To Graduate, Following Controversy Over Canceled Speech

Reported: Jun. 5, 2014 5:26 PM EDT
Updated: Jun. 5, 2014 10:21 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Katy Brown) -- After four long years of high school, more than 200 seniors graduated from Winfield High School Thursday night.

A class with their own accomplishments, and now the first class in years to not hear from long time teacher Coach Leon McCoy.

"It's not exactly good that they're cutting him out of the ceremony since he's been a big part of Winfield," graduate Michael Vande Linde said.

For years McCoy has been speaking at Winfield High School's graduation. But this year the Board of Education said they received complaints that said McCoy's speeches contain too many religious references.

So the high school principal said McCoy won't speak this year.

"He's a staple of our community. He taught my parents, he taught me, he taught my children. He's a good and Godly man," parent Laura McCullough said.

And while a tradition of Winfield graduations has come to an end, parents, like McCullough, said it's the life lessons McCoy taught the graduates that they'll keep forever.

"I think it shows the students that they should stand up for their beliefs. And just celebrate life."

And some of the graduates did just that.

Several speakers referenced to God in their speeches, which received standing ovations. Another entitled her graduation speech "If Coach McCoy Could Speak".

"I love you. You're a good guy. You're a great gym coach," graduate Martita Passero said. "And even through you're not there, you'll be here with us."

Many parents said they were upset about the principals decision, but the night was about the graduates.

And with that said we want to congratulated Winfield's graduating class of 2014.




CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Katy Brown) -- A tradition for Winfield High School graduation has come to an end, and not without controversy.

This year's class is graduating Thursday night, but many in the group are not thrilled about a move by the Putnam County School Board.

The 2014 class will walk across the stage at the Charleston Municipal Auditorium, but one thing is missing.

For years, coach Leon McCoy has been speaking at Winfield High School's graduation, but, this year, the Putnam school board says they have received complaints saying McCoy's speeches contain too many religious references, violating the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The board said McCoy won't be speaking this year, a decision that upset many students.

Those students started a petition to try to get the coach back on the agenda for graduation.

Eyewitness News has learned that McCoy will be at the event, but do not believe he will be speaking.



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