This student addressed her high school’s treatment of sexual assault victims in her valedictorian speech — and they cut off her microphone
Delivering a great valedictorian speech at graduation is no easy task. You want your valedictorian speech to leave your fellow graduates and their loved ones with reflective remarks that will stay with them for years to come. That’s exactly what Lulabel Seitz, the 17-year-old valedictorian at Petaluma High School in California, set out to do. But when she flipped the script and used her time at the podium to talk about sexual assault, the school cut off her microphone.
Seitz is now speaking out against the incident online. According to BuzzFeed News, she was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. to use her valedictorian speech to speak out against the school’s treatment of sexual assault victims, including herself. Seitz says she had been sexually assaulted by a fellow student during school hours multiple times last fall. She said that while the school was aware of the assault and the police did take action, the boy continued to be allowed on campus and to attend graduation. Seitz was frustrated that the school didn’t take further action and said that other girls had experienced the same treatment in similar situations.
“They don’t really do anything to the perpetrator,” Seitz told BuzzFeed News.
After school administrators were supposedly tipped off that she was planning to bring up the issue during her speech, they told Seitz they needed to approve her speech in advance. Administrators said that if anything negative was included, she wouldn’t be allowed to speak.
"They pulled me out of my last class in high school to say, 'You can't speak about how we treat sexual assault victims,'" Seitz continued.
The night before graduation, Seitz decided to speak her mind anyway.
She was looking at speeches online when she stumbled upon a quote by Dr. King: “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” Seitz didn’t want to name names or discuss details of the situation, but she did want to raise awareness about the school’s treatment of assault victims.
"I wasn't going to do it because they kept scaring me and threatening me," Seitz told BuzzFeed News. "But I thought, if I don't stand up for me and the other girls, then who is going to do it? It was just a kind of a moral decision I had to make."
So Seitz went for it. But just as she got to the part about sexual assault, her microphone was cut.
The audience chanted “let her speak,” but Seitz said the principal told her she wouldn’t be continuing. Seitz responded with a Malcolm X quote: “A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”
"Administrators and staff in Petaluma City Schools care deeply about the safety and well being of our students," school officials said in a press statement to BuzzFeed News. "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. 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."
But Seitz will not be silenced. So she uploaded her full valedictorian speech to YouTube for all to see.
Seitz is headed to Stanford University next year, where she’s sure to do some big things. For now, we’re just happy her speech is getting the attention it deserves.