Is a student’s speech at a high school graduation private or is it considered public and represents the school? According to a group called First Liberty although the speech is given at a public high school graduation ceremony the speech is considered private and legally protected speech
According to First Liberty’s website, they are “the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious liberty for all Americans”
Fox News reported that the principal of Michigan’s Hillsdale High School, Amy Goldsmith, had a problem with the content of the Valedictorian’s Elizabeth Turner’s upcoming valedictory speech for graduation which mentioned Jesus Christ.
In her speech she states:
“For me, my future hope is found in my relationship with Christ. By trusting in him and choosing to live a life dedicated to bringing his kingdom glory, I can be confident that I am living a life with purpose and meaning.”
She goes on to say:
“My identity is found by what God says and who I want to become is laid out in scripture. Whether we want to admit it or not, not one of us can be certain of how our lives will unfold, but we do know that trials will come. The reality of this is that we face an unpredictable future, and while we are making all these plans to prepare, ultimately none of us are promised tomorrow, making it all the more important to make today count.”
The Principal Ms. Goldsmith’s wrote to her:
“[Y]ou are representing the school in the speech, not using the podium as your public forum…We need to be mindful about the inclusion of religious aspects. These are your strong beliefs, but they are not appropriate for a speech in a school public setting. I know this will frustrate you, but we have to be mindful of it.”
First Liberty stated that Ms. Goldsmith’s beliefs conflict with U.S. Department of Education guidance issued in January of 2020. The U.S. Department of Education stated that:
“[s]tudent remarks are not attributable to the school simply because they are delivered in a public setting or to a public audience.”
Two attorneys for First Liberty Mike Berry and Keisha Russell stated:
“Student graduation speeches constitute private speech, not government speech, and private speech is not subject to the Establishment Clause”
In today’s crazy all things are to be accepted and acknowledged society why are Jesus and God not part of that?