South Jersey Says Goodbye to Speakers: School officials try to censor graduation speeches on mental health struggles and queer identity
Last week, the microphone of a New Jersey farewell speaker was cut off during his graduation speech when he mentioned his decision to come out as a queer — and condemned his actions as censorship.
Bryce Dershem, 18 years old, graduated from Eastern High School In Voorhees, he said he wanted to share his experience and the mental health struggles he endured in order to inspire his classmates.
“After my freshman year came out, I felt very lonely. I don’t know who to turn to for help,” Desheim said before his microphone was cut off.
A kind Farewell speech video Then it showed that the school principal Robert Tal Jr. walked to the podium, holding Desham’s microphone and his speech.
Desham Tell NBC10 Tal then took off the paper he had brought, pointed to the speech he had written for him, and instructed him to “just say that, don’t say any more.”
After the exchange, When Desham picked up from where he left, the audience cheered for support. Desham said he began to recite speeches from memory.
Desham told Washington post He spent six months treating anorexia and suicidal thoughts during his senior year.He says He hopes to inspire his classmates to persevere in difficult times by telling his own story.
Robert Cloutier, the head of the East Camden County Regional School District, said that the writing of the farewell speech is a collaborative process between students and teachers.
“Every year, all student speakers are assisted to shape their speeches, and all student speeches-agreed and approved in advance-are stored in a binder on the podium for the principal to officiate the graduation ceremony,” Cloutier said in a statement Said in. Statement to NBC10.
When writing the speech, Desham said that the management asked him to delete all references to his personal struggles and said that the speech was not “his therapy course.” He said he felt “censored” and decided to improvise on graduation.
“I thought,’I have been working hard, I should be able to tell my story and deliver this inclusive message,’ because I don’t think there is any problem with this,” he said Washington post.
Cloutier denied asking Dersham to remove references to his queer identity during the speech editing process.
“Before or during graduation, no student was asked to remove their personal identities from any speeches,” Clautier told NBC News.
Dershem said that the school also had questions about the gay pride flag he wore on his robe and asked him to remove it. He did not comply.
The following is the full video of the speech: