School cuts vale­dic­to­rian’s mic as she be­gins to talk about sex­ual mis­con­duct

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - WEATHER DESK - By The Washington Post

Lu­la­bel Seitz had done ev­ery­thing right, at least on pa­per. As a high school se­nior with a GPA over 4.0, the 17-year-old had been ac­cepted to Stan­ford Univer­sity, one of the most pres­ti­gious col­leges on the West Coast. The first in her fam­ily to grad­u­ate from high school, she was named vale­dic­to­rian at Pe­taluma High School in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, an honor that was joined by an op­por­tu­nity for her to give a com­mence­ment speech.

But about four minutes into her speech at the school’s grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony on June 2, the mi­cro­phone she was speak­ing into was dis­con­nected.

Seitz had ar­rived at a part of her speech that touched on sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions at the school, with­out nam­ing any­one in par­tic­u­lar, ac­cord­ing to a video she later up­loaded to YouTube. But school ad­min­is­tra­tors had cut her off at the mo­ment she de­vi­ated from a script that she had pre­vi­ously sub­mit­ted to them, the Santa Rosa Press Demo­crat re­ported.

David Stir­rat, the prin­ci­pal of the pub­lic high school, told The Washington Post by email that stu­dents had sub­mit­ted their speeches for ap­proval, then prac­ticed with a panel. They had been warned that if they went off script, the mi­cro­phone could be cut off, he said.

Seitz had spent the first four minutes of her speech de­scrib­ing some of the chal­lenges that both she and the stu­dent body at large had over­come to make it to their high school grad­u­a­tions. She said she was the grand­daugh­ter of im­mi­grants from the Philip­pines.

“I didn’t think I’d be stand­ing here as your vale­dic­to­rian,” she said. “But the rea­son I share this story with you is not be­cause I think it’s unique. In fact quite the op­po­site. We have all achieved un­likely dreams.”

She noted that the school had weath­ered a teach­ers strike and clo­sures dur­ing the fires that raged last fall in Sonoma County.

But it was in her next sen­tence that school ad­min­is­tra­tors de­cided to si­lence. She be­gan it by say­ing that “the class of 2018 has demon­strated time and time again that we may be a new gen­er­a­tion, but we are not too young to speak up, to dream and to cre­ate change. Which is why even when some peo­ple on this cam­pus, those same peo­ple—“

The mic cut off. In the video, a few stu­dents in the au­di­ence stand and clap, with some chant­ing, “Let her speak!”

Ac­cord­ing to the ver­sion of the speech that she read later and posted to YouTube, Seitz planned to say: “And even learn­ing on a cam­pus in which some peo­ple de­fend per­pe­tra­tors of sex­ual as­sault and si­lence their vic­tims, we didn’t let that drag us down. The class of 2018 has demon­strated time and time again that we may be a new gen­er­a­tion but we are not too young to speak up, to dream, and to cre­ate change.”

Later, she wrote on YouTube: “The Pe­taluma High School ad­min­is­tra­tion in­fringed on my free­dom of speech, and pre­vented a whole grad­u­at­ing class from hav­ing their mes­sage de­liv­ered. For weeks, they have threat­ened me against ‘speak­ing against them’ in my speech. Some­times we know what’s right and have to do it.”

The Press Demo­crat re­ported that Seitz was frus­trated by what she claimed was a lack of ac­tion from the ad­min­is­tra­tion on a claim of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

Stir­rat said the stu­dents were wel­come to in­clude po­ten­tially con­tro­ver­sial ma­te­rial in their speeches.

“In Lu­la­bel’s case, her ap­proved speech didn’t in­clude any ref­er­ence to an as­sault,” he said. “We cer­tainly would have con­sid­ered such an ad­di­tion, pro­vided no in­di­vid­u­als were named or de­famed.”

Seitz told The Post that she never planned to name any­one — and that it should have been clear to ad­min­is­tra­tors from the tone of her speech.

“The Pe­taluma High School ad­min­is­tra­tion ... pre­vented a whole grad­u­at­ing class from hav­ing their mes­sage de­liv­ered.” Lu­la­bel Seitz, vale­dic­to­rian

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.