The City of Rochester / www.youtube.com
Patrice J. Williams
July 04, 2018 11:22 am

For most high schoolers, senior year is a big deal. And it’s an even bigger deal if you happen to be named your class’s valedictorian.  But one New York teen’s senior year and valedictorian celebration was temporarily cut short when his school denied him the opportunity to speak at graduation.

In June, Jaisaan Lovett was crowned valedictorian at the University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men in Rochester, NY. And while it’s customary for valedictorians to make a speech at graduation, Jaisaan’s principal, Joseph Munno, didn’t extend him the invitation and then flat out denied him the opportunity when Jaisaan asked.

But luckily the story doesn’t end there.

In addition to being a stellar student, Lovett interns at the mayor’s office. After learning he was denied the opportunity to speak, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren provided Lovett with a public platform and posted his speech on the city’s YouTube channel. She also provided an introduction.

"For some reason, his school — in a country where freedom of speech is a constitution right, and the city of Frederick Douglass — turned his moment of triumph into a time of sorrow and pain," Mayor Warren said in the video.

In a follow-up Facebook post, she added, “He [Jaisaan] nor his parents were ever given a reason (why he wasn’t allowed to give the speech). I called the principal but to my knowledge he never called me back. He and Jaisaan didn’t have a great relationship and it was his last chance to show him who was boss. He worked hard for this opportunity and his mom and dad were in tears that there was nothing that they could do from the audience. They weren’t going to ruin it for everyone else.”

While no reason has been given as to why Jaisaan wasn’t allowed to speak, the student acknowledged that he and Munno have clashed over the years, including when he led a student strike over a lack of safety equipment in the school’s science labs. Some have even wondered if the issue may be race-related: Lovett is the school’s first black valedictorian.

During his speech, Lovett directly mentioned his principal. "To Mr. Munno, my principal, there's a whole lot of things I've wanted to say to you for a long time." He continued, "I'm here as the UPrep 2018 valedictorian to tell you that you couldn't break me. I'm still here, and I'm still here strong."

University Prep initially declined any comment, but today they posted a statement on Facebook stating the Board will be reviewing the incident.

From the UPrep Board of Trustees: We are aware of the concern with the Valedictorian not speaking at graduation. The…

Posted by University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men on Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Regardless of how this situation continues to play out, we’re glad Lovett was able to speak his mind. We’re sure he’ll keep shining at Clark Atlanta University, where he received a full tuition scholarship.

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