The queer promotion major of a New Jersey high school said his microphone was cut after refusing to remove all mentions of his sexuality and mental health issues from his graduation speech.
Bryce Dershem graduated from Eastern Regional High School in Voorhees, New Jersey last Thursday, NBC10 Philadelphia reported. About 45 seconds into his remarks, he spoke about his experience sharing his LGBTQ identity.
“After I finished my first homosexual year, I felt so lonely. I didn’t know who to turn to, ”he said.
At this point, his microphone was muted, as seen in a video of the speech. The principal, Robert Tull, approached the desk and removed the microphone and some papers.
“Dr. Tull walked up on stage, grabbed the paper I had brought and crumpled it in front of me,” Dershem told NBC10 Philadelphia. “He pointed to the speech he had written for me, indeed , and told me I had to say it and nothing else. “
After receiving a replacement microphone from another man and a round of applause, Dershem picked up where he left off in memory.
Dershem said during the speech-writing process all mentions of homosexuality and sanity were removed and he was told that graduation was not his “therapy session.” This prompted his decision to drop the book, he said.
As part of his research, he said he looked at previous farewell speeches in which students discussed their identities based on their culture, group membership and interests.
It was as if the school “was trying to regulate the message I was going to say and take away the parts of my identity that I’m really proud of,” he said.
“Believe in yourself, promotion 2021. Each of you is enough. Each of you can and will change this world. Thank you and congratulations, ”Dershem said at the end of his speech, to applause and cheers.
School administrators did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
In an email to NBC News, the school district superintendent said that “no student has been asked to remove their personal identity from a speech before or during graduation” and that all speeches are pre-approved.
“Each year, all student lecturers are helped shape the speech, and all student speeches – which are agreed upon and approved in advance – are kept in the binder on the podium for the principal to conduct the award ceremony. degrees, “Robert Clautier, superintendent of the Camden County East Regional School District, said in the statement.
The video of the speech, posted on YouTube by Dershem’s father, received a surge of support.
“So happy to have been able to see this in person, very brave and so smart. As a current student from the East, I am angry with the way Dr. Tull handled this. With all the resources with the clubs and as being inclusive I don’t know why he would cut the mic, ”one commenter wrote.
“Wonderful speech from a brave young man. As a parent of a student from the East, I was horrified by the cut off of his microphone, ”said another.
Dershem said he received a standing ovation and that “it meant the world to me”.
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