Principal accused of copying Ashton Kutcher speech is suspended

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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP/WTAP) — UPDATE (June 13):

Actor Ashton Kutcher testifying at a hearing on ways to improve federal support for combating human trafficking and slavery | Photo: C-SPAN

A West Virginia principal accused of plagiarizing Ashton Kutcher in an address to his school's graduating class has been suspended without pay for five days.

The News and Sentinel reports that Parkersburg High School Principal Kenny DeMoss was suspended Tuesday at a Board of Education meeting. DeMoss apologized for heavily basing his May address on Kutcher's 2013 Nickelodeon Teen Choice Awards speech. He has said that he should've cited his sources but that the ideas were his own.

A Facebook video highlighting the plagiarism spliced the speeches together. DeMoss said the video excluded a disclaimer that multiple sources informed his speech. Kutcher tweeted Saturday that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and cited Oscar Wilde for the quote. He then quipped that both "kids and faculty" should cite sources.

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ORIGINAL STORY (May 31):

A West Virginia principal accused of plagiarizing Ashton Kutcher in an address to his school's graduating class says he didn't mean to use someone else's work.

The News and Sentinel reports Parkersburg High School Principal Kenny DeMoss issued a statement Wednesday saying he should have cited his sources in the May 23 speech, but asserted the "thoughts and ideas" were his own.

"I did not get all my ideas from Ashton. Format yes, thoughts and ideas were from my heart," he wrote.

A graduate by the name of Abigail Smith posted a video to Facebook that spliced DeMoss' speech with Kutcher's 2013 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards speech and has since amassed over 100,000 views. The speeches used similar wording and at times featured identical phrasing.

"I feel that it's important to hold leaders of any kind, like school leaders, community leaders, accountable for actions that they hold us accountable for in school," said Smith. "If I were to plagiarize, that's something that I would get into a lot of trouble for, and I think it's important to hold even adults accountable for those types of things."

DeMoss said the widely-circulated video cut out a preface that was supposed to make clear he was going to be folding others' ideas and thoughts into his speech.

In an email Friday, DeMoss said he's putting the incident behind him.

"Me and my family are the only ones being hurt here. My accuser isn't. I love kids and love this school and this will only make me better," he said.

he says he's upset the speech has stolen the focus from graduating students. Wood County Schools Superintendent Will Hosaflook says it is a personnel matter that's under investigation.

Below is DeMoss' full statement:

"Hello this is Kenny DeMoss, Principal of Parkersburg High School, with an important message for all staff, students, and outgoing 2019 graduated seniors. When I began my closing remarks at graduation, I didn’t think that my speech would be the center of attention. The graduates should be. It was an awesome graduation! It is really sad to think that the focus has fallen more on about my closing remarks and I am deeply sorry for that. I am the kind of person who never wants to be the center of attention and for me this is very difficult right now because we deal with way more pressing and important matters on a daily basis from mental health, to students being kicked out of their homes, to abuse, to students having to worry about their next meal. As a proud father and a man of faith, I want to sincerely apologize to those I have obviously offended. It was never my intent to take credit for what I said or give specific credit because of how I prefaced my speech. When I began my speech, by saying “Many of you don’t know much about me other than being a principal, a teacher, or a coach. In these three professions, I have had the chance to hear and share many great ideas and thoughts that have helped me be who I am today, and I want to share that with you.” When I made that statement, that was my preface that these ideas and thoughts that I am about to share, I have heard before, from others, and along with my personal beliefs, have shaped me into who I am as a man, a father, and leader. In hindsight, I wish I would have cited more. Yes, I've seen the online speech by Ashton Kutcher. However, in my experiences, as I have stated, I have heard and seen many similar speeches at coaching and leadership clinics and at professional development that many of you have not. The format of Ashton’s speech I liked the most, because it had the most impact on me. The order of the main points I should have done differently. Being intriguing was completely my word. Trying to be intriguing has helped me pursue and obtain three master’s degrees. I believe being really smart is the most interesting thing about a person. I’ve learned that as a principal and as a coach. Ann Landers once said “that opportunities are disguised as hard work so most people don't recognize them”. Ashton said basically the same thing, so did I, and so did Ann Landers; neither which I specifically cited. I did not get all my ideas from Ashton. Format yes, thoughts and ideas were from my heart. Steve Jobs said “don’t just live a life; build one”; and I even gave him credit for that. It’s totally my fault for not being specific, but I would have to give credit for the format to Ashton, and many of the other things I've heard to various people, and at the closing of a graduation it’s my job to get them out of there and celebrate, and unfortunately when I don’t cite everyone, I'm personally taking a hit. Lesson learned for me. Saying something in which I receive no money for, or academic credit, or a transcribed grade is what led me to not be as specific as I should have been, instead of prefacing with a blanketed statement. In the future, anything that is spoken by me or any other administrator to the public, if it has been said by anyone else, it will be cited. Moving forward, I wish the class of 2019 the best of luck. I hope you have a blessed life and all your dreams come true. Thank you and have a wonderful evening.”