Rooha Haghar worked her way through high school to the top of the class. Then while delivering a speech as valedictorian on June 1 before her Conrad High classmates in Dallas, Texas, her microphone was muted.
As her speech began, she recognized children who didn’t have the same educational opportunities as her, and then listed names of minority youth around the country who have been killed in shootings of “police brutality.”
Haghar mentioned Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice during her speech before being silenced at the graduation ceremony.
“My valedictorian speech was cut short because I said the names of black children who had become victims of police brutality. Our principal signaled for my mic to be turned off as soon as I said ‘Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice’ and played it off as a technical difficulty. Pathetic,” Haghar tweeted.
The Dallas Independent School District (DISD) issued an apology on Tuesday evening for censoring the graduate’s address.
“It is never our intent to censor anyone’s freedom of speech. Students have that right — Dallas ISD encourages it,” DISD said in a statement.
“Our charge is to ensure the rights of all students are respected and no one’s rights are infringed upon. In hindsight, we realize this decision may not have been reflective of the core values we teach our students, as we work to educate leaders of tomorrow. For that, we apologize.”
After being silenced, Haghar posted what she said was her initial valedictorian speech.
“I really think my principal did this out of ignorance, and we all have room for growth. I never meant to create more divisiveness, but I also feel like certain conversations need to be had,” Haghar said.
DISD stated it’s a district policy to review prepared remarks from valedictorians and salutatorians, and that the district was caught off-guard in this instance.
“It is Dallas ISD’s practice to review all valedictorian and salutatorian speeches in their entirety. The challenge the school faced in this instance was that the valedictorian chose to share other remarks that were not prepared with administration’s knowledge. As a result, the principal made the decision to limit the student’s remarks,” the statement said.