The cancellation of the senior class president’s speech at Portland High School’s graduation because of a Facebook post has upset classmates, who chanted Charlie Gauvin’s name during commencement marching practice this week and urged the principal to reconsider her decision.

In a post on the class of 2014’s Facebook private group page, Gauvin urged his classmates to bring food and non-alcoholic drinks to a senior skip day gathering May 21 at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth. Senior skip day is a common but unsanctioned event at high schools each spring.

In the post, Gauvin also made comments about underage drinking and local police officers that drew the attention and disapproval of school officials.

The 18-year-old class president said Friday that he jokingly wrote that people should bring non-alcoholic beverages “because some wusses need chasers,” and anyone who was going to drink should make sure they had a sober driver.

His post to classmates included an expletive to describe police who might catch them drinking and driving, he said.

The Facebook post was removed and replaced with an apology.

“In retrospect, that was not the best thing to say,” Gauvin said Friday as he stood outside the high school after a senior assembly to celebrate the end of the year. “I really was not advocating (for underage drinking). I was genuinely advocating for their well-being.”

School administrators were notified of the post and, after meeting with Gauvin, decided not to allow him to speak at the graduation ceremony June 4, Gauvin said. Senior class Vice President Paul Foster will speak instead.

Principal Deborah Migneault and Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk did not respond to repeated requests for comment Friday. School board Chair Sarah Thompson said she was aware of the decision but declined to comment about the situation because she didn’t have details.

Speaking more broadly, she said, “It’s a lesson for all people to think about the repercussions of what you post on the Internet.”

Gauvin, who will attend Colby College in Waterville, said administrators at Portland High told him that he would not be allowed to give his speech because his Facebook post discussed underage drinking and skipping school, and was disrespectful to police officers.

He said, “It wasn’t smart of me to reference alcohol on the Internet,” and he did not drink during senior skip day. “My intention was to tell people to be safe and smart.”

After meeting with the principal, Gauvin posted an apology on the senior class Facebook page.

“My references to alcohol and drinking in the previous post I made about senior skip day were in very poor and irresponsible taste,” he wrote. “That doesn’t represent the attitude we need to get through the next couple weeks in a safe and incident-free way. If anything bad had happened to anyone at or on the way back from Fort Williams then I would’ve felt responsible and terrible.”

Ben Hagelin, 18, said he can understand to an extent why the administration took issue with Gauvin’s comment but thinks it was an overreaction to take away his opportunity to speak at graduation. Hagelin described Gauvin as a respected leader who wanted to make sure his classmates were making smart decisions.

“The message Charlie was sending was a great one that should be sent to all high school students,” Hagelin said.

Bobby Lajoie, an 18-year-old senior, said he believes that Gauvin was trying to help his classmates and that they all knew Gauvin was joking about using the non-alcoholic drinks as chasers.

“I think he posted what needed to be said. (Students) respected him for saying it,” Lajoie said of the reference to not drinking and driving.

Gauvin said he appreciates his classmates’ support but wants to put the situation behind him, focus on graduation and support Foster during his speech.

But he is disappointed that he won’t be able to stand up and talk about what makes Portland High School unique and how that influenced him over the past four years.

“I have a lot of love for Portland High and always will. Nothing will change that,” Gauvin said. “But this leaves a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth, to end it in this unfortunate way.”

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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