When one California valedictorian was told not to mention sexual assaults at her high school, there was only one thing she could do in a year when the #MeToo movement is sweeping America: Speak out.
However, when Lulabel Seitz, 17, began to bring up the subject during her speech to her graduating class at Petaluma High School on Saturday, her microphone was cut off.
Seitz, who said school officials did that deliberately to silence her, not only finished the speech, but posted it on YouTube. As of Monday morning, it had been viewed more than 250,000 times.
“They made all these rules to prevent me from speaking,” Seitz said, according to ABC. “So I decided to use the opportunity to bring it up.”
“When they cut my mic, I was appalled at them,” Seitz told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
“I thought this is a public school with freedom of speech,” she said. “This is for my class that stood up and said ‘let her speak.’ Even if the administration doesn’t give me a mic, I still want to speak.”
School officials replied that Seitz broke the rules by deviating from an administration-approved script.
Assistant Principal Deborah Richardson told the Press Democrat that Seitz was told that the text school officials approved was supposed to be the speech she gave, but the school officials were warned in advance Seitz might take her speech in a different direction.
Principal David Stirrat said students were warned that if they went off script the mic would be cut, The Washington Post reported. He insisted there was no attempt at censorship.
“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.”
During the speech, Seitz started talking about the school right before the mic was cut.
“ … 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 …” she said when the mic stopped working.
After calls from the crowd to let her speak, she finished without a mic.
Seitz later posted what her fellow graduates would have heard next,
“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,” her speech said.
Seitz, who said she was sexually assaulted on the school’s campus by a fellow student, said she was not surprised by the school’s actions.
“This is what they’ve been doing,” she said of the school. “I thought that maybe for once, they would let a student speak up.”
She said that in her case, the perpetrator of the assault was never punished, and she was told to drop the matter.
“Throughout my whole case, the administrators told me their jobs were on the line,” she said. “They put their jobs before students, which is not how it should be.”
Petaluma City Schools issued a statement in response to her claims
“Administrators and staff in Petaluma City Schools care deeply about the safety and well being of our students. Due to student privacy issues, we cannot and should not respond with specific information. We can say that when issues of sexual assault come to our attention, local law enforcement has initial jurisdiction and determines the course of action,” the school district said.
“If an alleged event happens off campus or on, we work to support our students with appropriate discipline, extensive counseling, and whatever measures we can take to protect our students while they are in our learning environment,” the statement said.
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