A California high-school valedictorian is speaking out after she says school officials censored part of her commencement speech to fellow graduates and parents last week. Lulabel Seitz of Petaluma High School was about four minutes into delivering her remarks when she deviated from the version of the speech that had been approved by the school. Her microphone was promptly shut off, but she continued giving her speech without audio amplification as some in the audience yelled out, “Let her speak!” When Seitz completed her remarks, she returned to her seat.
Seitz, 17, had tried to bring up the topic of several alleged sexual assaults involving students, including one she says she suffered on school property at the hands of another student at the school. She said she’d been warned by school officials not to mention the pending case in her speech, but went ahead and did so anyway. After the speech was censored, she posted a version online of her delivering her complete remarks in which she talks about her case, but does not name the student she has accused..
The grad, who will be attending Stanford University in the fall, said she initially had no plans to broach the topic in her speech. But when administrators specifically told her not to bring it up, she decided it was important to voice her concerns. “They made all these rules to prevent me from speaking,” Seitz told ABC News. “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 said. “I realized that this is a big injustice and needs to be spoken about.”
Seitz said she was sexually assaulted on school grounds last fall, but said the school hasn’t done enough to keep her safe since then. She filed a police report and the case is being investigated, and said that the suspect was arrested by police, but not expelled or suspended by school administrators.
“I was, like, there’s got to be something I can do to make this change,” she told CBS News. “Because if I can prevent this from happening to more girls, then that would be good enough for me.”
When asked for comment by CBS News, school officials declined to specifically address the issue, saying only, “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.”
Speaking to ABC News, Seitz said school officials seemed more self-interested than concerned with student safety. “Throughout my whole case, the administrators told me their jobs were on the line,” she said. “They put their jobs before students, which is not how it should be.”
CBS News spoke to her about reaction from some students, which was mixed. One male graduate told CBS he thought the timing of her remarks was inappropriate. “We’re all celebrating us leaving, you know?” Nick Mall said. “And she was kind of taking it off into what happened to her.” Seitz replied by asking CBS News, “Then, ‘What is the time or place?’ Meeting with the administration and the police — none of those would work. So I had this opportunity, and I used it.”
For more on the story, watch the video below. And below that, watch Seitz’s full uncensored speech that she posted later online.