Valerie Strauss wrote a well-documented and alarming story about a high school valedictorian who was prevented from giving the graduation speech because school officials did not like certain words and topics. When the affair became public, the school board and superintendent apologized and invited the graduate to deliver her speech to the school board, promising to tape it and put it on their website. Sadly, the student lost the opportunity for which she had prepared: the chance to speak to her classmates at graduation. As you will see, Kriya Naidu did not cry “fire” in a crowded theatre. She did not utter hate speech. What she had to say was inoffensive to everyone except those who censored her. What was offensive? Talking about America as a haven for immigrants? As a land of opportunity?

Strauss writes:

Kriya Naidu is the valedictorian at University High School in Orange County, Fla. — but unlike many other students who graduate at the top of their class, she was not permitted to deliver her speech at commencement. School officials didn’t like parts of it.

First, she told WOFL-TV in Orlando, she was asked to edit out several sentences, including a line by rapper Cardi B about overcoming adversity. Then, she said, a school official asked her to prerecord the speech for airing at the graduation, apparently so it could be checked to make sure she hadn’t uttered the edited comments.

She did not prerecord the speech — which focuses on resilience and the fortitude of immigrants — and she was not allowed to give the speech live at the ceremony…

When the story became public, the school system issued an apology to Naidu and her family, according to Lorena Arias, assistant director of media relations for Orange County Public Schools. She said in an email:

“The district has apologized to the Naidu family. The School Board and Superintendent were not aware of the controversy prior to University High School’s graduation ceremony. Kriya has been invited to give her speech at the next school board meeting and to have it professionally recorded and posted to the district’s website and shared on social media platforms. The district is reviewing its commencement practices for improvements.”

In a letter to Naidu, district Superintendent Barbara Jenkins apologized for “unfortunate mistakes” made….

What were the sentences that were deemed offensive?

And I hope you remember, like the rapper and philosopher Cardi B says, “Knock me down nine times but I get up 10.”

I’m sure that all of us in our past four years of high school — while making memories of deans kissing pigs, racoons in vending machines, and toilet fires in the 25 building — have been knocked down.

The problem with that line, the graduating senior told the television station, was the reference to a toilet fire…

In her speech, Naidu spoke about how her family came to the United States from South Africa and their determination to succeed. In an unedited version of the speech, she wrote:

You see, in 1995, my parents emigrated from South Africa and moved here, to America, with only $500 to their name. And with all the opportunities that this country has afforded them, they were able to build a life for themselves and eventually myself and my sisters. And thanks to that, I have made it here today.

But they faced their fair share of challenges. Prejudice, difficulty securing jobs, pay parity and much more. But every time they were knocked down they got back up. Their success is an example of what immigrants, people of color and everyone can achieve with hard work even when they find themselves in a country that seems to work against them. As Lin-Manuel Miranda said, “Immigrants, we get the job done.”

But my parents and I aren’t the only immigrants: Most everyone here in this arena today, if not an immigrant themselves, is descended from someone who moved to America with a dream in their hearts as well.

Asked about what happened with the speech, Carcara, the principal, said in an email:

Thank you for contacting me.

University High School is proud of its Class of 2019 and its valedictorian who challenged themselves throughout their high school years. Valedictorians are role models to their peers and their speech is a moment of inspiration and celebration. School administrators worked closely with the valedictorian providing her guidance after reviewing her speech. She was then given the opportunity to pre-record her speech as is the practice in some of our high schools. We were disappointed that she chose not to do so. We wish her and the Class of 2019 much success in their future.

The school wanted her to prerecord her speech to make sure she did not utter the sentences that it wanted her to delete. She did not prerecord her speech.


31 Comments Post your own or leave a trackback: Trackback URL

  1. SomeDAM Poet says:

    “a letter to Naidu, district Superintendent Barbara Jenkins apologized for “unfortunate mistakes” made”

    “Mistakes” were made

    “Mistakes were made —
    Regrettably” —
    As Cheney said
    ‘Bout WMD

    • SomeDAM Poet says:

      Toilet Fires

      Toilet flames
      Can not be quenched
      With censor games
      It’s common sense

    • SomeDAM Poet says:

      Knock me down

      When others knock me down
      I get up off the floor
      They only make me bound
      To do it even more

    • SomeDAM Poet says:

      “Kriya Naidu did not cry “fire” in a crowded theatre.”

      Maybe not, but she DID yell “fire” in a toilet

  2. retired teacher says:

    This act of censorship makes the school officials look narrow minded. It reminds me of the film “Footloose,” where the repressed young people in a small town long to dance. Once again this is Florida. Kriya has no need to worry about the future. She is moving on to bigger and better things. Florida is well known for pulling books from libraries and editing English departments’ reading lists.

    • speduktr says:

      “This act of censorship makes the school officials look narrow minded.”

      They don’t just “look” narrow minded; they ARE narrowminded. Kriya Naidu and her family are living examples of why immigrants are vital to this country. They believe the dream, and they sacrifice to achieve it. Well done, Kriya.

      • SomeDAM Poet says:

        The World is 4 Dimensional (3 of space and 1 of time)

        Narrow minds are everywhere
        As narrow as a line
        A 1-D thing that doesn’t care
        About the space and time

      • ciedie aech says:

        thinking in one dimension: that explains so many people

  3. Chiara says:

    ” including a line by rapper Cardi B about overcoming adversity.”

    I smiled when I read that. I have a teenager and they love Cardi B. I had to look her up when I kept hearing the name 🙂

  4. moeone2015 says:

    This is not just happening in Florida. It is happening all across the United States. Peoples of all ages, color, races, and nationalities are being censured in what they have to say about what is going on in this country.
    And, it all starts at the very, very top of our government. Certain people in leadership at the highest levels do not want to heard the voices of the people they service.
    What happened to Ms. Naidu is not Fake News. It is very real. It happens everyday.
    It will take people, young people like Ms. Naidu to stand up and stop what is going on with the destruction of our democracy and our way of life that since the first immigrates who arrived from Europe has built on this land we cal home.
    It is time to speak up. Stand up. And be free again.

  5. Bob Shepherd says:

    Well, it’s obvious enough why this speech was censured. And what message does that send to the young immigrant who has played by the rules and realized the promise on which this nation was built? This is truly sickening.

    Here’s hoping, Kriya Naidu, that your future will be glorious! Know that there are millions of us who are sickened and angry about what your Principal did and proud of you for your accomplishments!

  6. Typical adminimal behavior from the powers that be.

  7. Gordon Wilder says:

    TRAGIC!!! Every once in a while I read of something similar perpetrated by an “educator”. Makes you proud to be in such company .
    We ALL make mistakes but this goes beyond that I think.
    A chance for a student herself to educate. Evidently it was the powers that be that needed education.
    More than sad.

  8. No surprise that this happened in the Corrupt Billionaire’s Republican (not the people’s republic) of Florida in the state Jeb Bush built.

    • SomeDAM Poet says:

      The House that Bush Built

      Billyan errs and Common Cores
      Rickety stairs and creaky floors
      Leaky roofs and shaky stoops
      That’s the house that Bush built

      Flooded basements, cracked
      Broken casements, termite nations
      Sagging beams and cracking seams
      That’s the house that Bush built

      Failing kids and firing teachers
      Software bids and testing leechers
      Standardizing and capitalizing
      That’s the house that Bush built

      • dianeravitch says:

        All you are missing here, SDP, is how Obama and Duncan reinforced the foundation of The House That Bush Built

      • SomeDAM Poet says:

        Not coincidentally, that’s also the House that Gates Built, The House that Koch Built, The House that Zuck Built, The House that Jobs Built, The House that Duncan Built, The House that Betsy built etc

        In short, The House that Reform Built

      • Shudder

        Imagine the house that Trump is building

        When he’s finished, he will claim it is the greatest house in the world

        Then it will collapse, and he will blame that on Hillary Clinton or Obama who had nothing to do with the House that Trump built.

  9. Words matter!
    Imagine. in this day where everyone demands FREEDOM of Speech… we are in a moment where it is NOT SAFE for our people, our youth to speak truth.. This fascist state is controlled by a power elite, of billionaires and corporations who continually spin disinformation and lies.

    And let’s not forget that we have the shining model for freedom to do and say ANYTHING — OUR PRESIDENT!

    For example: he ” characterized statements by Meghan Markle, before she became Duchess of Sussex, as “nasty” during the 2016 campaign” “And then, there are all the ways that he has attacked the women who have dared to stand up to him — Hillary Clinton, Carly Fiorina, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Elizabeth Warren, Frederica Wilson, and the list goes on — attacking their looks or calling them in some way feeble, of mind or body.”

    More from today’s NY Times
    “Lest we ever forget: Trump was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women and boasting: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
    “Well, I’ll tell you the funniest is that before a show, I’ll go backstage and everyone’s getting dressed, and everything else, and you know, no men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it,” Trump said. “You know, I’m inspecting because I want to make sure that everything is good.”

    “This says nothing of Trump allowing Stern during another interview to refer to his daughter, Ivanka Trump, as “a piece of ass,” and Trump himself saying of her during that interview that “She’s actually always been very voluptuous.”

    • As my brother says, Trump is the best president this country has ever had. Here’s to Fox, Hannity and Rush L for telling the ‘truth’ about how great Trump is. [Sarcasm]

      Somehow, I don’t get the devotion.

      The US needs a baby Trump balloon. Britain knows Trump better that we do.

  10. To me, the school principal’s statement is the offensive one. Though the school board apologized, the principal clearly thinks, it was OK to censor the student.

    • SomeDAM Poet says:

      You gotta wonder what they planned to have Naidu do at the graduation ceremony, just stand and lip sync the words to her prerecorded speech?

      Or did they just plan to play it without her on the stage?

      • Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? This is why it’s so insulting what the principal said.

        On Tue, Jun 4, 2019 at 3:10 PM Diane Ravitch’s blog wrote:

        > SomeDAM Poet commented: “You gotta wonder what they planned to have Naidu > do at the graduation ceremony, just stand and lip sync the words to her > prerecorded speech? Or did they just plan to play it without her on the > stage?” >

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