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Gay high school senior delivers banned graduation speech at Education Department in Washington, DC

Gay high school senior delivers banned graduation speech at Education Department in Washington, DC

Zander Moricz wasn’t allowed to refer to LGBTQ activism while delivering his original valedictorian speech at his Florida high school graduation.

A student who was banned from making any references to LGBTQI+ activism in his valedictorian speech at his school in Florida has been given a bigger platform to deliver his speech by the U.S. government. Zander Moricz, an openly gay student, got to deliver his banned valedictorian speech in Washington, D.C., after being invited by the U.S. Secretary of Education. “Zander Moricz wasn’t allowed to deliver the original valedictorian speech he wrote for his Florida high school graduation because it included references to his LGBTQI+ activism,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, reported LGBTQ Nation. “So, I invited him to deliver it at the U.S. Dept. of Education. When students speak, we must listen.” Moricz has been at the forefront of the student movement against the "Don't Say Gay" law, signed by Florida governor Ron DeSantis.



 

 

 



 

 

In a short clip of his speech shared by Education Secretary Cardona, Moricz called on elected officials to listen to the students. “In my position, I am asked what can be done to help the children in Florida. The answer: listen. Listen to the students and respect what they say enough to act on it. Respect our warnings enough to mobilize around them, and respect our pleas enough to vote upon them,” he said. Secretary Cardona has been highly critical of the law that went into effect July 1 and urged students who are discriminated against to reach out to their office. “The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights stands ready, and as always, any student who believes they are experiencing discrimination, including harassment, at school or any parent or caregiver who is concerned that their child is experiencing discrimination, is encouraged to file a complaint with our office.”



 

 



 

 

As we reported, Moricz had organized an all-school walkout at the time to protest the bill that banned any discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in younger grades. Moricz was also banned by the principal from referencing LGBTQI+ activism during his valedictorian speech at the Pine View School in Osprey, Florida. He is also the first class president to be openly gay and the first to have been elected in all four years. "My principal is censoring me. My human rights are too controversial for his school," said Moricz. He is also the youngest public plaintiff in the “Don’t Say Gay" lawsuit and said the principal has warned him to not make a reference to his activism with regards to the law.



 

 

"A few days ago, my principal called me into his office and informed me that if my graduation speech referenced my activism or role as a plaintiff in the "Don't Say Gay" lawsuit, the school administration had a signal to cut off my microphone, end my speech, and halt the ceremony," he wrote on Twitter. "I will be the only student speaker at graduation, and I cannot speak about who I am. It was like a sledgehammer to the face,” said Moricz.



 


However, Moricz found a way around the ban as he used his hair as a metaphor for his queerness to make his point. “I used to hate my curls. I spent mornings and nights embarrassed of them, trying desperately to straighten this part of who I am — but the daily damage of trying to fix myself became too much to endure,” he said at the speech, as we reported. “So while having curly hair in Florida is difficult — due to the humidity — I decided to be proud of who I was and started coming to school as my authentic self. There are going to be so many kids with curly hair who need a community like Pine View and they will not have one. Instead, they'll try to fix themselves so that they can exist in Florida's humid climate."
 
 
 



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