Ben Nakamura Stockton HS principal escorted off campus after graduation speech in which he condemned school district authorities.
Be a truth teller. At almost any cost. A Stockton, California high school principal was escorted off campus by police while addressing the school’s commencement ceremony last week in which he seemingly ‘went off script’ when he condemned school district officials for laying him off.
In his roughly eight-minute speech, Stagg High School Principal Benjamin ‘Ben’ Nakamura told students and parents that in a four-to-three vote by the Stockton Unified School District board that he had been removed as principal after having serving only one year in the role, and wouldn’t be returning.
The speech touched on a number of topics including gun violence, drug use and social injustice, with the educator encouraging students to overcome the adversities they’ll face in life. At one point, the educator also revealed that his mother had died of a heroin overdose.
While Nakamura declined to specifically say why he’d been ousted, the principal said he was forced out because he loves the school and the community.
‘I came here to serve you, to love you, to be in the mix and the grind with you,’ he told graduates and attending parents according to the The Stockton Record.
Upstaged graduating students?
Nakamura said working at the school appealed to him after he saw a fight that took place there that made the news. He told students that he loved his job and encouraged them to do their best. He also used the struggles in his own life as examples of perseverance.
‘I wanted to tell the kids why I left, so they would know I did not leave them, I did not turn my back on them,’ he told the Record.
School officials accused the principal of upstaging students and using the speech to air his problems with the school administration instead of sending off the graduating seniors.
Explained, Melinda Meza, a spokeswoman for the Stockton Unified School District, via Fox 40,’…it was unfortunate that he chose to use this platform for his own grievances.’
And then there were the clues.
At one point during his speech, Nakamura said successful people ‘will do whatever it takes to stomp on top of others and pull them down to climb their way to the top.’ The educator said those people do not deserve respect.
Meza later told ABC 10 that he was escorted out by campus cops, before being asked to turn in his keys.
‘Don’t be a sellout, tell the truth,’
‘There were strict COVID-19 guidelines, so no principals were allowed to give a speech,’ Meza said, according to the paper. She told Fox News in an email that one mother said, ‘My son worked hard during COVID and wanted this day to be about him and his fellow students. Not some HR stuff and drama.’
But not everyone was bothered. Sofia Colon, a parent, told Fox 40 that the principal is loved by the students.
‘That speech tells me how honest this principal is with his students. Tell the students, be a mentor to your little brothers and sisters. He told us where he came from, how relatable, how vulnerable. That was my takeaway: Don’t be a sellout, tell the truth,’ she said.
The district to date has not given an official reason for Nakamura’s dismissal, citing the educator’s ouster as a ‘personnel issue.’