School banned speech by gay Colorado valedictorian as inappropriate

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 01, 2015 9:05 PM

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - School officials said on Monday they banned a Colorado high school valedictorian's commencement speech - in which had planned to come out as gay - because his comments were inappropriate.

Evan Young, 18, had wanted to publicly declare his sexual orientation during his graduation from the Twin Peaks Charter Academy in Longmont last month, he said in a posting on a gay rights web site.

The incident stirred controversy after Young went public to say school officials had barred him from speaking and did not acknowledge him as the senior class valedictorian.

Young, who could not be reached for comment, ultimately came out publicly as gay instead at an event last weekend sponsored by the gay-rights group Out Boulder, said Mardi Moore, the organization’s executive director.

The Twin Peaks Charter Academy said in a statement that Young was listed as valedictorian in the graduation program and was given a valedictorian medal, which he handed back to the principal after receiving his diploma.

Young was denied the right to deliver his remarks, the school said, because he failed to make revisions suggested by school officials after they saw an initial draft of the speech.

The school said Young’s comments were condescending toward the academy’s faculty and students and included “references to personal matters of a sexual nature.”

“None of these topics are ever appropriate for a speech at a graduation ceremony,” the statement said.

In a transcript of the speech he made at the weekend gathering, Young said he loved his school, is not angry or bitter, and his frustration over the graduation flap has “largely subsided.”

“I’m bringing my story forward so that it may serve as an inspiration, not only to other LGBT students, but to any student who is in some way different,” he said, according to the transcript. “They can celebrate their uniqueness, no matter what people in authority tell them."

The school statement said its “students have a broad right to express their points of view in a non-disruptive manner when they are not participating in a school-sponsored activity,” but that Young crossed the line.

The school said in addition to refusing to follow school guidelines, Young tore the sleeves off his graduation gown so it resembled a cape, “further making a mockery of the evening’s ceremonies.”

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Bill Trott)