Community rallies to support silenced Filipina high school graduate

PETALUMA — “I never thought that when I was walking up to that podium that people would actually pay attention to what I was going to say.”

This is the first time Lulabel Seitz has stepped onto her high school campus since graduating.

Two weeks ago, the 17-year-old Filipina was delivering her speech as Petaluma High School’s class valedictorian, and as she was about to criticize campus administration for its handling of her sexual assault case, her mic was cut off.

“I stood there for what felt like a long time and they were saying let her speak, let her speak and they refused to turn my microphone on so I was like, I’m just gonna finish it so I went into the middle of the crowd of students and said… We do not stand for this, we are a great class, and we are going to do great things and I sat back down. That was the best moment of the speech for me.”

According to Seitz, she was assaulted on campus last fall, and while the student was arrested, administrators did not suspend or expel the student, and instead encouraged Seitz to drop the case.

After posting what would have been her full speech onto YouTube, many have since rallied around Seitz’s cause.

At a school board meeting on Tuesday night, students and parents expressed concern over Seitz’s silencing, while also highlighting more instances of sexual assault.

A petition calling for the removal of Petaluma High School’s principal David Stirrat has over 16,000 signatures.

Stirrat recently drew flack after telling the Santa Rosa Press Democrat newspaper, “We were trying to make sure our graduation ceremony was appropriate and beautiful.”

School officials did not immediately respond to BA’s request for a comment, but previously issued a statement saying they cannot respond with specific information due to student privacy issues.

Seitz says while she has no plans of personally filing a lawsuit, groups have expressed filing lawsuits surrounding the case, to which she says she is willing to lend her voice to.

“Even if it is difficult,” she says, “I think my story has shown that you can do it anyway and if you do it people will support you.”

 

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