Lulabel Seitz is a high school senior who just graduated with a GPA between 4.6 and 4.7, got accepted to Stanford University for an Applied Mathematics and Economics major, and became the first in her family to graduate from high school.
Her academic accolades gave her the honor of being the valedictorian at Petaluma High School in California, which allowed her to give a commencement speech during her graduation on June 2.
However, about four minutes into her speech, her microphone was abruptly cut off by school officials. Seitz was about to talk about an alleged sexual assault she experienced at her school, without outing anyone in particular.
The beginning of her speech touched on certain challenges she had to overcome to graduate, along with her family history. She is the granddaughter of Filipino immigrants and her parents dropped out of high school.
“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.”
However, her mic was turned off when she got to the following part of her speech: “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 — ”
Her mic was cut and there was an awkward silence in the audience. Soon after, a few students in the audience stood up to chant “Let her speak!”
School officials said that her microphone was cut because she deviated from the initially approved script. David Stirrat, the school’s principal, told The Washington Post that all student speeches are submitted for approval beforehand and were told their mic would be cut if they went off script.
“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 uploaded her speech in full on YouTube including the part she was going to say before she was cut off.
“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. Which is why, even when some people, those same people defended perpetrators of sexual assault and silenced their victims, we didn’t let that drag us down.”
“The Petaluma High School administration infringed on my freedom of speech, and prevented a whole graduating class from having their message delivered,” she wrote on YouTube. “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 school has declined to comment on the alleged sexual assault Seitz said took place on the campus last year due to student privacy laws.
However, that didn’t stop students, former students, and other women from supporting what she stood up for before being censored.
Lulabel Seitz is a fierce truth teller and they tried to silence her- don’t you understand sexual assault victims will be silenced no more???? High school valedictorian says speech was cut off when she began to talk about sexual assault https://t.co/3DXwng2nAe
— Mira Sorvino (@MiraSorvino) June 9, 2018
“Let her speak …” – often a necessary refrain when women speak truth to power. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing a good deal more from Lulabel Seitz as the future unfolds for this extraordinary young woman. #letherspeak https://t.co/WP7xRJRpMv
— Wendy Davis (@wendydavis) June 9, 2018