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It was supposed to be one of the most joyous moments of Lulabel Seitz’s life. She had earned the distinction of being the valedictorian of her class at California’s Petaluma High School, and she was also the first member of her family to graduate.
But, midway through her speech to her classmates and family, school administrators abruptly cut off her microphone. Seitz, 17, views this as an attempt to silence her.
About four minutes into her speech on June 2, Seitz wanted to address alleged sexual assaults on campus – and what she describes as inaction by the school in its handling of the problem. But, before she could, her microphone was disconnected.
“Let her speak!” some people in the audience chanted. Frustrated, and after almost a minute of her microphone being shut off, Sietz returned to her seat.
The valedictorian, who will start at Stanford University this fall as a double major in applied mathematics and economics, told ABC News she wasn’t planning to mention the alleged assaults until administrators pressured her leave the issue out. Before graduation, Seitz said she was pulled out of her last class “to make sure she got the message,” according to the news outlet.
“They made all these rules to prevent me from speaking,” Seitz said. “So I decided to use the opportunity to bring it up.”
“They told me to be quiet, told me I can’t talk about it,” she continued. “I realized that this is a big injustice and needs to be spoken about.”
A video posted to YouTube by Seitz shows her speech in full, including the audio being shut off. “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 says before the audio falls out. The video has been viewed more than 250,000 times.
Apparently, Seitz finished her entire speech without the mic, which included the censored line: “Even learning on a campus where some people defend perpetrators of sexual assault and silence their victims, we didn’t let that drag us down.”
Sietz told ABC that the school’s move was hardly surprising.
“This is what they’ve been doing,” she said. “I thought that maybe, for once, they would let a student speak up.”
David Stirrat, the principal of the high school, told the Washington Post by email that students had to submit their speeches for approval ahead of time, and they had been warned that the microphone would be cut off if they veered 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.”
Significantly, one of the alleged assaults that Seitz claims she was deterred from speaking about was her own. Seitz told ABC that a student assaulted her on the school’s campus last fall. According to her, the alleged assailant was neither suspended or expelled, and school administrators encouraged her to move on.
“They told me not to speak about it,” Seitz said. But, after she reported the incident to the police, the student was arrested.
“Throughout my whole case, the administrators told me their jobs were on the line,” Seitz said. “They put their jobs before students, which is not how it should be.”
Word of Sietz’s story reached actress Mira Sorvino, who tweeted her support.
“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,” Sorvino wrote on Saturday.