It’s taken us this long, but in the last two years, the politically-charged #MeToo movement has empowered women to stand against sexual assault in whatever way they can.
But that is a difficult road to take, as Petaluma High School senior Lulabel Seitz found out.
As the valedictorian, Seitz knew the administration would try to censor her speech, as the school required all statements to be approved. This brave young woman took to the stage with the address she wanted to deliver anyway, and it had a powerful message… before she was cut off by the frantic administration.
The 17-year-old graduated on June 2nd, where she tried to deliver her message.
“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 … ”
That was all she managed to say before her microphone was muted. Despite classmates yelling “let her speak!” from the crowd, the board did not let up.
While short, Sietz’s message was incredibly powerful and resonates across all age groups. When the school mishandled her sexual assault case (which has been happening all across schools and colleges), she knew she had to address it herself.
Sietz was sexually assaulted by another student on campus earlier this year, and the formal complaint she lodged with the school went nowhere. Sietz told media, “they [school officials] specifically told me not to mention how they handled my sexual assault case and other sexual assault cases in general.”
“They just told me to not talk about it because it wouldn’t help,” continued Seitz. This is the advice women have been given for a long time and are now ignoring. Seitz recognized the importance of using her voice to speak up for herself and the other women in the audience.
Despite the allegations against her attacker, the school took no action and the student was allowed to sit and attend graduation. Seitz pointed out, “that’s just not fair to girls.”
After graduation, the student posted the video on YouTube, where it quickly gained momentum. She soon uploaded a second video of the full, uncensored speech. The description in her video stated:
“The Petaluma High School administration infringed on my freedom of speech, and prevented a whole graduating class from having their message delivered. 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.”
This brilliant young woman is planning to attend Stanford in the Fall, and we can already tell she’s headed towards a bright future.
The part of her speech that was cut off said:
“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?
Count on yet another high amazing high-school student to advocate for change in a totally fearless fashion!
Yelena Mandenberg is a staff writer at Grit Daily with a passion for news of all sorts. From Brooklyn, NY, she shares an apartment with her cat and tortoise and freelances full-time. Taking on projects big and small, Yelena loves helping small businesses expand their marketing and websites.