One high school student is refusing to be silenced by her high school administration.
Petaluma High School senior Lulabel Seitz was delivering her valedictorian speech during the school’s June 2 graduation ceremony in Petaluma, California, when her microphone was abruptly muted.
Seitz, 17, said it was turned off by the school’s administration because she attempted to talk about her experience of being sexually assaulted at school.
“Because 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 ... ” Seitz said right before her mic was cut (around minute four in the video above).
Once she realized her mic had been muted, Seitz moved to the end of the stage where she attempted to continue her speech. Her classmates stood up and applauded in support, later chanting “Let her speak!”
The valedictorian moved in front of the podium and finished her speech before sitting down.
Seitz, who is headed to Stanford University in the fall, told The Press Democrat that she was sexually assaulted on school grounds by someone she knows. She said that school administrators did nothing despite her making a formal complaint.
They specifically told me not to mention how they handled my sexual assault case and other sexual assault cases in general. Lulabel Seitz, Petaluma High School graduate, of her school administration
She told CNN that school officials had warned her not to discuss her assault during her valedictorian speech, but she did it anyway.
“They just told me to not talk about it because it wouldn’t help,” Seitz said.
The graduate told NPR, “They specifically told me not to mention how they handled my sexual assault case and other sexual assault cases in general.”
Petaluma High School principal David Stirrat told The Washington Post that Seitz and other students who spoke at graduation were warned to stick to their pre-approved speeches.
“If the school is providing the forum, then the school has the ability to have some control over the message,” assistant superintendent Dave Rose told The Press Democrat.
Seitz told NBC’s Bay Area outlet that her attacker was not given any consequences for his alleged actions, and he was in attendance at graduation.
“That’s just not fair to girls,” she added.
In a June 7 statement provided to local outlet KPIX, the Petaluma City School District responded to Seitz’s claims that the school did not respond accordingly to her sexual assault allegations.
“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 statement reads. “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.”
Seitz posted her full and uncensored speech to YouTube after the graduation ceremony.
“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 despite the threats.”
Listen to Seitz’s full and uncensored speech below.
Below is the section Seitz was about to deliver before her mic was cut off:
Furthermore, it is truly the journey we took to get here that makes the Class of 2018 unlike its predecessors. The fires that put our daily lives on hold and took some of our homes — we didn’t let that drag us down. When our teachers had to go on strike because they didn’t receive the respect they deserve — we didn’t let that drag us down. It helps that we had the support of compassionate and dedicated teachers, friends, parents, counselors, custodians, and librarians throughout the years. 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. Even after four years of working our hardest and becoming the best class Petaluma High has ever seen, just to be told be those same some people that our love of learning, art, drama, music — anything — wasn’t valuable enough to be funded, well, we didn’t let that drag us down either. Time and time again, the Class of 2018 has demonstrated that although we may be a new generation, we are not too young to speak up, to dream, and to create tangible, positive change. As such, we will never be forgotten. How could we be?
Actress Mira Sorvino, former Texas state senator Wendy Davis and more showed their support for Seitz on Twitter.