School administrators are apologizing to a North Texas high school valedictorian who says her microphone was silenced when her graduation speech became political.
Rooha Haghar, the valedictorian at Emmett J. Conrad High School in Dallas, said the school cut off her microphone when she mentioned the names of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown — whose shooting deaths sparked protests across the country and propelled calls for police oversight.
Before the ceremony, Haghar said her school principal deleted the names from her speech because he didn't want it to become political. Despite the pushback, Haghar felt the names should remain. But, she says she never expected her microphone would be cut off.
"I never expected them to not allow me to finish, because at the end of the day, schools want to raise socially conscious students, students who are able to think for themselves. That's what I was doing."
In a written statement, the Dallas Independent School District says students have the right to free speech.
"It is never our intent to censor anyone's freedom of speech. Students have that right - Dallas ISD encourages it.
It is Dallas ISD's practice to review all valedictorian and salutatorian speeches in their entirety. The challenge the school faced in this instance was that the Valedictorian chose to share other remarks that were not prepared with administration's knowledge. As a result, the principal made the decision to limit the student's remarks.
Our charge is to ensure the rights of all students are respected and no one's rights are infringed upon. In hindsight, we realize this decision may not have been reflective of the core values we teach our students, as we work to educate leaders of tomorrow. For that, we apologize.
We appreciate our parents and community members partnering with us to strengthen student voices."
After the graduation, Haghar told NBC 5 she has no regrets and was not made at her principal or the school. "I don't have any regrets. And if it took me not being able to finish my speech, then so be it," she said.
Haghar, who immigrated as a child with her family from Iran, plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin and continue her work as an advocate for social justice.