Imagine earning your spot as valedictorian for your class, only to have it taken away from you, without the principal even looking at your speech?
That’s what happened to Jaisaan Lovett, who recently graduated from University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men, with a full ride to Clark Atlanta University to boot.
Not only is Jaisaan smart and hardworking, he is the first black valedictorian from his school and had prepared a speech meant to address things he thought were important such as thanks to his parents, siblings, teachers, classmates ... and especially his principal.
However, that speech would never be heard at graduation. The school refused to let him speak. Lovett said that was due to personal issues between himself and Joseph Munno, the principal, WCNC reports.
However, with the help of Rochester, N.Y., Mayor Lovely Warren, who Jaisaan happened to be interning with, his speech was not only heard by the people in the school but the whole city, and now the whole nation.
Warren invited Jaisaan to City Hall to deliver the speech, which was then uploaded to the city’s official YouTube channel.
“To Mr. Munno, my principal, there’s a whole lot of things I’ve wanted to say to you for a long time. ... I’m here as the UPrep 2018 valedictorian to tell you that you couldn’t break me. I’m still here and I’m still here strong,” Jaisaan said in his address. “And after all these years, all this anger I’ve had toward you and UPrep as a whole, I realized I had to let that go in order to better myself. And I forgive you for everything I held against you.”
The mayor herself spoke out in the video introducing Jaisaan, and slamming the institution for its decision to silence him.
“Unfortunately, Jaisaan’s school did not allow him to give his valedictorian speech,” Warren said in the video. “For some reason, his school—in a country where freedom of speech is a constitution right, and the city of Frederick Douglass—turned his moment of triumph into a time of sorrow and pain.”
“Jaisaan will never graduate from high school again. He will never get that moment back. This is not the time to punish a child because you may not like what he has to say,” she added.
Jaisaan told the news station that he’s had his troubles with Munno in his six years at UPrep, an all-boys school with annual graduation rates exceeding 90 percent.
At one time, Jaisaan, ever the leader, clashed with the principal after leading a five-day student strike after the school didn’t order safety equipment needed for a lab.
“There’s a lot of wrong things that go on at that school, and when I notice it I speak out against it,” he said. “[Munno] is a guy that doesn’t like to be told ‘no.’”
Leading up to graduation, Jaisaan said he was never asked to deliver a valedictorian speech, and even when he asked permission to speak himself, Munno refused him, without even asking to see a copy of his intended speech.
“He didn’t want to see the speech or what it said, nothing,” Lovett said. “He just said no.”
Warren posted on Facebook that neither Jaisaan nor his parents were given any reason as to why he would not be allowed to speak.
“I called the principal but to my knowledge he never called me back. He and Jaisaan didn’t have a great relationship and it was his last chance to show him who was boss. He worked hard for this opportunity and his mom and dad were in tears that there was nothing that they could do from the audience. They weren’t going to ruin it for everyone else,” the mayor said.
So I guess rather than taking well-intentioned critique at school, Munno preferred to be blasted from a young leader who was instead invited to speak from City Hall.
At any rate, that is behind Jaisaan now, who will use his scholarship to study video game design.