How Trying to Silence the School’s First Black Valedictorian Backfired; And Other Lessons for Petty Tyrants

“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 Lovett in his mayoral address when denied a chance to speak at his high school commencement

If you are a valedictorian, you earned your speech time, unless your truths make the principal nervous.  Jaisaan Lovett learned that lesson this year at University Prep Charter in Rochester.  Much like the young woman from Petaluma High, whose mic was cut as she addressed a school culture that perpetuated sexual assault—Jaisaan, too,  was denied a chance to share his truths, by his respective Principal, a Mr. Munno.

You Can’t Silence the Truth

But in the modern era, there is more than one way to skin a rat.  And like the young woman from Petaluma, Jaisaan’s story is getting wider play now, than it would have ever gotten.  I hope the principal is listening.  Either way he is going to get an earful.

You see Jaisaan interned with the mayor and, hearing the situation, she invited him to give his speech at City Hall.

“I am still here strong”

Let’s get to the story though, and this young man’s offenses. According to Blavity they included a (gasp) safety strike,

In one instance, Lovett led a five-day strike when the school wouldn’t order needed safety equipment for a lab.

But it seemed more about control, and maybe Jaisaan was little “uppity”—if you get my meaning.

“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 in a recent video. “[Munno] is a guy that doesn’t like to be told ‘no…”

And he addressed it directly in his City Hall speech,

“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,”

“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.”

His words are stinging, and any self-reflective educator, should really step back and think.  Your top student says that he survived you, that you tried to break him, not develop him, how does that make you feel?

This young man is a shining example of our youth, and needs to be celebrated not squelched.  Congratulations Jaisaan, and I hope that this is as reflective opportunity for you too Mr. Munno, you could learn a lot by listening to this young man.

You can see his full video here—please watch it.





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