At around the four minute mark into her valedictory graduation speech at Petaluma High School, Lulabel Seitz’s microphone was cut off just as she had begun to speak about alleged sexual assault on the school’s campus. Seitz alleged she was herself a victim.
School officials don’t deny cutting the microphone feed but defend the decision to do so to protect “student privacy issues.”
Here’s what you need to know about the 17-year-old academically gifted student:
1. Seitz Says She Was Threatened Not to ‘Speak Against’ School Administration Nor Bring up Allegations of Sexual Assault
The above video begins at around the point Seitz’s microphone is cut.
“The Petaluma High School administration infringed on my freedom of speech, and prevented a whole graduating class from having their message delivered,” she said.
Some students shouted “Let her speak” and then there were chants of “Let her speak.” That never happened.
Later, Seitz posted the full speech to YouTube. The following video begins where she makes the original speech she’d intended.
“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. Watch the whole uncensored version here as well as the aftermath of them cutting my mic,” she wrote accompanying her internet-posted “uncensored speech.”
Of the 700-plus comments on her YouTube video, with nearly 200,000 views, the vast majority were supportive of Seitz and critical of he school.
“Thank you for speaking up for the truth at your school. Perhaps one day the administration will wake up and understand what you and your classmates have to say.” And one pointed out that having the microphone cut has instead amplified her voice.
Seitz told local and national media that high school administrators pushed her to not mention the alleged assaults and claimed she was “told me to be quiet, told me I can’t talk about it. I realized that this is a big injustice and needs to be spoken about. This is what they’ve been doing. “I thought that maybe for once, they would let a student speak up,” she told ABCNews.
2. Seitz Claims She Was Sexually Assaulted on School Property & Silenced
Seitz told local media that she was assaulted by a student on school grounds and alleges administrators “didn’t suspend or expel the student, she said, and instead encouraged her to drop it.”
“They told me not to speak about it,” she said.
This is the portion of the speech the school did not want students and families to hear. It lasts less than 10 seconds.
Prior, she’s speaking about the obstacles students must overcome including wildfires, teacher strikes and under-funding of programs, students nonetheless soldier on with the support of friends and family, and school staff from great teachers to the “lunch ladies” when she takes a breath and says, “And 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 …we are not too young to speak up …we are strong …we won’t be forgotten, how could we be?”
3. A Petaluma City Schools Statement Says Staff ‘Care Deeply’ But Can’t Provide Specifics Because of ‘Privacy Issues’
Seitz said she has attempted to contract district officials. It’s not clear if she has received as response as of the publishing of this post. But the school district did provide a statement to the media.
“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,” the statement read.
“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,” the statement provided to ABCNews was reported as having read.
4. Seitz, With an Above 4.0 GPA Will Attend Stanford University as Applied Mathematics & Economics Major
In what she calls an “unlikely dream,” Seitz explains her backstory: she is the granddaughter of Filipino immigrants, has a single mom and is also the daughter of parents who had to leave high school for presumed economic reasons. Regardless, she says, she did not dream that one day she’d be a valedictorian. But adds that she doesn’t think she’s unique: “We have all had unlikely dreams and overcome obstacles,” she said.
Entrance to Stanford University is highly competitive and requires a full four years of high school with superior grades and achievements and even then the acceptance rate is around 5 percent. Seitz will attend Stanford as a double major in mathematics and economics.
A teacher defended Seitz when someone called her out on social media not because of the censored speech, but for her appearance.
“She is my former student. Smart, articulate, and heading for Stanford,” wrote Leslie Ihrig.
5. Reaction To Seitz’s Speech & the School’s Censorship Was Mixed
A woman named Janice Seitz posted to Facebook, “Lulabel …trying to speak her voice.” It’s not clear if they are related.
“Teen Vogue” shared her full speech on social and while the comment thread wasn’t chock-a-block, a few comments stand out including one from a retired Santa Rosa official, “The Petaluma School Board and the administration which follows them adroitly should apologize not only to the hard working dedicated Union teachers, but also to Lulabel and her family.”
And a teacher that defends Seitz when someone calls her out for her appearance: She is my former student. Smart, articulate, and heading for Stanford.
Seitz has many supporters from all corners and quarters including a former Petuluna student who had a similar experience 20 years ago. Iris Chen wrote, “Proud of Lulabel Seitz. 20+ years ago, I was another Asian American valedictorian at a Petaluma high school. I remember the theme for my speech was “diversity within unity”. I spoke out against decisions made by the school administrators; about how unity doesn’t mean conformity or uniformity. I’m thankful that I was not cut off. We need to keep speaking out against injustice, even when others want to silence us, shame us, or pretend they can’t hear us.
But not all feel that way.
“There are a lot of other students that were graduating too. She stole all the attention from them to make her point which she thought was more important then her fellow classmates. Pretty selfish if you ask me,” wrote Esther Brown on a local media Facebook post on the story.
And at least one parent wanted answers to a number of questions including why weren’t parents notified that a sexual assault occurred: “When a student has been in contact with another student who has a contagious virus, letters are sent out. IMO sexual assault and how it is handled in a community can be just as dangerous and spread as rampantly as a virus. As a parent I have a right to know if my child is being placed in an unsafe environment,” Micha’ele Cherie Powell wrote. “If this isn’t the right time for this brave young lady to speak out, then when is? …Trying to silence her isn’t the answer.”